Obesity, eating behavior and physical activity during COVID-19 lockdown: A study of UK adults

Appetite. 2021 Jan 1:156:104853. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2020.104853. Epub 2020 Oct 7.


Eating, physical activity and other weight-related lifestyle behaviors may have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and people with obesity may be disproportionately affected. We examined weight-related behaviors and weight management barriers among UK adults during the COVID-19 social lockdown. During April-May of the 2020 COVID-19 social lockdown, UK adults (N = 2002) completed an online survey including measures relating to physical activity, diet quality, overeating and how mental/physical health had been affected by lockdown. Participants also reported on perceived changes in weight-related behaviors and whether they had experienced barriers to weight management, compared to before the lockdown. A large number of participants reported negative changes in eating and physical activity behavior (e.g. 56% reported snacking more frequently) and experiencing barriers to weight management (e.g. problems with motivation and control around food) compared to before lockdown. These trends were particularly pronounced among participants with higher BMI. During lockdown, higher BMI was associated with lower levels of physical activity and diet quality, and a greater reported frequency of overeating. Reporting a decline in mental health because of the COVID-19 crisis was not associated with higher BMI, but was predictive of greater overeating and lower physical activity in lockdown. The COVID-19 crisis may have had a disproportionately large and negative influence on weight-related behaviors among adults with higher BMI.

Keywords: COVID-19; Eating behavior; Obesity; Physical activity; Weight management.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • COVID-19*
  • Diet*
  • Exercise* / psychology
  • Feeding Behavior* / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperphagia / etiology
  • Hyperphagia / psychology
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Obesity* / complications
  • Obesity* / psychology
  • Pandemics*
  • Snacks
  • Social Isolation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult