Weight gain observed in Latvian population during pandemic

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The pandemic and consequent restrictions have reduced many human activities. Remote work and training have affected overall public health, especially weight, according to nutritionists, Latvian Radio reported February 28.

Last year, residents of Rīga and its vicinity in the age group over 16 years had the lowest rates of excess weight or obesity among Latvia's regions. Still 57% people in Rīga were overweight. The highest percentage of overweight or obese people was in Latgale – 65%, then came Kurzeme with 64%, and Vidzeme and Zemgale, where 61% of the population are obese or overweight, according to data from the Central Statistical Bureau.

Compared to the 2018 figures, the largest weight changes are seen in Kurzeme -  an increase by eight percentage points. Latgale follows.

Nutritionist Annija Albertiņa has observed that more customers are coming to her, which is clearly linked to the pandemic.

“I can certainly feel it in my practice, too, that people come with problems, but I'm glad they come. Because that means they're aware. For some, work takes place from home, for others, maybe work has stopped. And I would like to say that these people are like isolated, working or living at home and unable to get out of there," Albertiņa said.

As weight increases, either previous health problems are exacerbated or new ones are emerging, like back pain, joint and bone pain, migraine, skin problems, diabetes, and others, explained the specialist.

Children also experience an increase in weight during the pandemic, said Lizete Puga, a nutritionist at Children's Clinical University Hospital.

"There are very many children who have seen a very large increase in weight since the spring. I guess the highest I've faced is plus 60 kilograms. It's a whole another person on top."

"And there is also a second group of children – those who do not eat at all because of stress and fear that weight can increase. What I have observed during this pandemic is often a very late call for help,” said Puga. Not everyone, according to the specialist, comes for help at all.

Remote learning plays a key role in weight gain because pupils spend all day on the computer. Their physical activities have significantly decreased.

Riga Hanza High School physical education teacher Oskasr Sirmais conducts the classes online. He acknowledged it was not easy because there is a barrier of that distance. Children, however, are motivated to participate.

“Those children who previously had different health problems, a sedentary lifestyle, this is now, of course, going to get worse. But it's very important for pupils to take part in online PE so that they really move,” Sirmais said.

Nutrition professionals recommend that people introduce physical activity in the daily routine. It is also important to plan meals. Parents, on the other hand, have to pay attention to the weight of their children and their eating habits.

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