“It’s alright for you thinnies,” were the reported words of U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, when discussing the risk of contracting COVID-19. His lesson from hospitalization due to the virus? “Don’t be a fatty in your fifties.”
Questionable language aside, Boris does have a point. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those most at risk of being severely ill from COVID-19 are older people suffering from diabetes and obesity. A recent study from the UK revealed that obesity raises the risk of dying from COVID-19 by 40 percent. A study in New York of over 4,000 people showed that obesity was the single biggest factor, after age, in whether those with COVID-19 had to be admitted to a hospital.
Known jokingly on social media as the “quarantine 15” (the typical weight in pounds that people gain in lockdown), weight-gain as a result of pandemic lockdowns is a real problem. In the U.K., the COVID-19 lockdown has led to two out of three people gaining weight. In the U.S., a poll of 1,000 WebMD readers found nearly half of the women and almost one-quarter of the men had gained weight “due to COVID-19 restrictions.”
Back in 2007, Jackie (my wife) and I published ‘Fighting Globesity: A Practical Guide to Personal Health and Global Sustainability’. In that book we detailed what was known at the time about the staggering costs to individual health and society as a whole, caused by physical inactivity and poor eating habits.
Thirteen years on, despite innumerable new ways for people to exercise in gyms and at home, we still have a long way to go. Consider the following U.S. statistics:
- Nearly a third of Americans aged 17 to 24 cannot qualify for military service because they are obese.
- Chronic diseases are projected to cost the U.S. alone $42 trillion between 2016 and 2030.
- 75 percent of chronic disease is driven by lifestyle choices such as inactivity and junk-food consumption.
These numbers are a stark reminder that people need exercise today more than ever. Beyond the aesthetic and emotional benefits, exercise can be the difference between life and death.
Given the critical need to get more people into exercise the role of the group fitness Instructor is more crucial than ever. Instructors are in the business of motivation, and it’s this motivation that is going to keep people coming back to class so they can remain healthy and safe. Some will argue that people can exercise outside of gyms. But the evidence shows that they don’t, because they lack motivation. No one owns the patent to the press up, and there’s no finer treadmill than the great outdoors, yet gym members are on average 14 times more active than non-members. Without motivation, most people lie on the couch eating junk-food, leading to massive health problems, including more acute cases of COVID-19.
Now, as club doors are beginning to reopen it’s pleasing to see people enthusiastically getting back into classes. Here in New Zealand, our clubs are already at 85-90 percent of pre-COVID-19 attendance, and people are overjoyed to be working out again. We also know that all over the planet our 140,000 Les Mills Instructors are jumping at the chance to get back into routine – bringing health, community and happiness to people, and helping them recover from this terrible phase of human history.