Is the UK Government’s Plan to Combat Obesity with Exercise Enough?

On 25 July, five months after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was discharged from the hospital after suffering from COVID-19. The PM’s first-hand encounter with the virus was rather rough, as a result of his (over) weight. Consequently, the UK government released a press release which said that ‘excess fat can affect the respiratory system and is likely to affect immune function,’ causing those who are overweight to develop worse effects of COVID-19 than their slimmer compatriots. Shortly after, the government launched the “tackling obesity” strategy, which aims to ‘support people to maintain a healthier weight and encourage physical activity’.

However, this plan has a major shortfall. It only references endurance exercises as methods to lose weight. For many of us, endurance training won’t work, as we don’t have enough time. The PM’s plan seems to ignore the time poor lifestyles - filled with deadlines and social events - most of us subscribe to. The plan does not discuss the different, more effective exercises one could perform to lose weight, and therefore lacks proper guidance on how those struggling with excess weight can change their lifestyle for the better.

The plan only references walking and cycling as the methods to embolden the public to move more. But walking and cycling are not the most effective or time efficient ways to lose weight (Robinson, 2016). You would need to cycle and/or walk a lot to notice a difference. Most of us do not have time to exercise for the time required, over the many weeks or months required, to lose enough weight to mitigate the potentially fatal effects of COVID-19. And... COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere. Public research suggests we will be living with the virus for up to 5 years.

Lack of time in the average working person’s daily schedule and routine is the reason for CAR.O.L’s creation. In a short eight minute and 40-second interval-focused ride, your body is working to reduce fat loss quicker than other forms of exercise, while reducing a number of health conditions that lead to the intensified complications obese coronavirus patients face.

Some studies show that the coronavirus attacks the immune system, while others have proven that obesity can impair (Heredia et. al, 2012) the immune system. But there is one thing they agree on; exercise will mitigate the threat of the coronavirus. In fact, exercise is possibly the best virus defense we have aside from social distancing, proper hygiene and wearing a face mask.

But, because the ‘tackling obesity’ strategy relies on a few, basic and time-consuming exercises, it will not make the sustained difference on public health that we are hoping it will. Although implemented with good intention; the government’s plan is not sustainable, nor is it realistic. The factors driving weight gain and loss are unique to every person, a one-size-fits-all approach may not work for everyone. Targeted and tailored solutions (now like those offered by companies like CAR.O.L) for each person will work best.

 

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References Sourced in this Post:

Gold, J. (2020). ‘Anxiety From The Covid-19 Pandemic Could Be Making Eating Disorders Worse’. Forbes Magazine. Assessed: 10 August.

Rogers, M. and Landsverk, G. (2020) ‘Coronavirus anxiety and quarantining could increase eating disorder risk. Here's what to look out for’. Business Insider. Assessed: 23 March. Available at: https://www.insider.com/coronavirus-panic-could-increase-risk-of-eating-disorders-experts-say-2020-3.html.

De Freitas, W. (2020) ‘Four reasons the UK government’s obesity strategy may not work for everyone’. The Conversation. Assessed: 31 July. Available at: https://theconversation.com/four-reasons-the-uk-governments-obesity-strategy-may-not-work-for-everyone-143695.html.

Robinson,  J. and Marsch, S. (2016) ‘Why walking (probably) isn't enough to make you lose weight’. Coach Nine. Assessed: 2016.

Heredia, F. et. al (2012) ‘Obesity, inflammation and the immune system’. Cambridge University Press. Pp.1. Assessed: 20 March.

Press Release (2020) ‘Three months on the sofa? Binge eating, alcohol and lack of exercise hit England’s mental health in lockdown’. Unit for Biocultural Variation and Obesity. Oxford University Press. Assessed: 27 July. Available at: https://www.research.ox.ac.uk/Article/2020-07-27-three-months-on-the-sofa-binge-eating-alcohol-and-lack-of-exercise-hit-england-s-mental-health-in-lockdown.html.

Press Release (2020) ‘Excess weight can increase risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19 ‘. UK.gov. Assessed: 25 July

Government Document (2020) Tackling obesity: empowering adults and children to live healthier lives’. Uk.gov. Assessed: 27 July.

Blackshaw, J. et. al (2020) ‘Excess Weight and COVID-19 Insights from new evidence’. Public Health England. Pp.6. Assessed: July.

Martin, S. et al. (2010) ‘Exercise and Respiratory Tract Viral Infections’. Exercise and Sports Science Reviews. Assessed: October.

Press Release (2020) ‘PM kickstarts £2bn cycling and walking revolution’. UK.gov. Assessed: 28 July.

Statistics Report (2020) ‘Sports Facilities in the UK - Market Research Report’. Assessed: 24 March.

Pinto, A. et. al (2017) ‘Spatial Planning for Health An evidence resource for planning and designing healthier places’. Public Health England. Assessed: June.