THE initial coronavirus lockdown brought with it many problems, but one that may linger is the effect it has on our waistlines.

With people asked to self-isolate, routines and regular pastimes, including going to the gym or playing sport, disappeared overnight. In their place came simpler outdoor exercise, such as walks along the canal, runs through Woking Park or short bike rides to the Surrey Hills, but national research suggests they may not have offset negative factors.

Before the start of the pandemic, 64% of adults in England and 34% of 11-year-olds were overweight or obese.

And the UK Lockdown Diet Report carried out by OnePoll in April suggested almost half (47%) of 2,000 UK adults gained weight during lockdown, driven primarily by comfort eating and drinking more alcohol, with a lack of opportunity for normal exercise third.

A survey from Gorkana of 1,000 adults reported that one in 20 had put on so much weight they were scared to weigh themselves.

Bob Pritchard, from Woking-based Active Surrey, said: “I know that my own diet has suffered since restrictions were introduced and while I’ve done more outdoor exercise it’s not always easy. The important thing is that people don’t think they are powerless when it comes to weight gain – the answer really is in their hands.

“Alongside the risks of developing long-term health conditions such as cancer and heart disease, excess weight has been a factor for many of those admitted to hospital with coronavirus. If we want to do the best for our families and the NHS, we all need to eat a little less and move a little more.”

Are your new activity habits typical?

It is perhaps not surprising that family diets changed for the worse during lockdown, though the good news is that at least free outdoor exercise proved popular.

Data from Sport England has shown that since the lockdown kicked in, six out of 10 adults have been walking each week, with just under two in 10 jogging. Cycling has risen almost every week – 13% of adults saddled up in the most recent week for which data was available.

Despite this surge in outdoor activity (supplemented with online exercise in the home), slightly more people are reporting that their overall activity levels are lower than before, so what can we do to stay fit and avoid weight gain?

Ensure energy out matches energy in

While we’ve all been social distancing, that hasn’t always included keeping 2m away from the fridge, biscuit tin or our favourite tipple.

The current situation may have left us feeling we deserve a little something extra but for those working from home, a trip to the kitchen has become one of the few ways of taking a break, and with it the temptation to snack or pour a glass of something a little earlier than usual.

Sadly, there’s no magic formula – it’s just about eating less of the bad stuff. Make a conscious decision to add fewer “treats” to your shopping basket. Cut down on chocolate, crisps and processed food such as pizza and give yourself nights off from alcohol.

The Healthy Surrey website has some good advice and links to the NHS One You quiz, which will give you a quick snapshot of your eating, drinking and exercise habits.

Try some different exercise

Now that we’re allowed to travel to exercise, make the most of any good weather. Some forms of sport have been allowed out of quarantine early, such as golf, outdoor tennis and many forms of watersport (check for official advice), but the rest of us can still head for a walk in the Surrey Hills or go for a bike ride with a socially-distanced picnic.

For those stuck at home, the options for online workouts or seated exercise classes remain – even dancing along to your favourite tunes with the kids will help. The key is to do things you enjoy, aim for at least one activity a day and avoid sitting too long.

Start a diet programme

If you're worried about your weight or that of your children talk to your GP or consider a diet to get you back to normal.

A good place to start is to google “NHS weight loss plan” for a free 12-week diet and exercise schedule. If you’re thinking of a different programme, you can read NHS diet reviews at

Parents worried about the weight of children under 12 can also self-refer to the new Surrey Be Your Best programme ( where they’ll get free advice and potentially one-to-one phone support from a community nurse and online sessions for the kids.

Active Surrey is a not-for-profit, partner-funded organisation dedicated to the support, promotion and development of sport and active lifestyles throughout Surrey. For more information, visit