March 22 (UPI) -- People in the United States gained an average of 1.5 pounds per month during pandemic-related lockdowns last spring, according to a study published Monday by JAMA Network Open.
Participants in 37 states and Washington, D.C., monitored between Feb. 1 and June 1 last year added, on average, about 0.6 pound of body weight every 10 days after shelter-in-place orders were implemented in their areas, the data showed.
This weight gain occurred regardless of geographic location or any other health problems the study participants had, including heart disease and diabetes, the researchers said.
"Many of us don't fully realize how much physical activity we routinely perform when we are more freely out and about in the world, whether walking up the stairs to a meeting room, walking to the bus or even standing on the subway," study co-author Dr. Gregory M. Marcus told UPI in an email.
"Clicking from one Zoom to another doesn't burn a lot of calories," and with food "more accessible, such as while working from home ... it's possible more calories are going to be consumed," said Marcus, associate chief of cardiology for research at the University of California-San Francisco.
Between March 19 and April 6 last year, 45 states instituted shelter-in-place orders intended to limit the spread of COVID-19, with schools and many "non-essential" businesses closed, according to Marcus and his colleagues.
With more people staying home from work or school, and gyms closed, physical activity declined for many people in the United States, the researchers said.
Still, in a Gallup poll of just over 1,000 adults released in January, roughly the same percentage of respondents reported that they were overweight -- just over 40% -- in 2020, during the pandemic, as in 2019.
However, in a second survey of 3,000 adults released by the American Psychological Association released earlier this month, 60% of respondents said they had undesired weight changes during the pandemic.
Respondents also said that stress related to the pandemic was causing them to eat and drink more.
The study by Marcus and his colleagues, though, is different in that it monitored the weight of 269 study participants from 37 states and Washington, D.C., with roughly two-dozen weight measurements per participant over the five-month study period.
Participants were adults ranging in age from their early 30s through their early 60s, and 77% of them were White.
"The purpose of the shelter in place orders is to minimize harm, but these data suggest that other messaging accompanying such orders may be warranted," Marcus said.
"For example, remember to schedule in time to exercise and stay physically active and avoid snacking between meals as much as possible," he said.