COVID-19: Does Isolation Aggravate Weight Problems In Children?

COVID-19: Does Isolation Aggravate Weight Problems In Children?

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Weight gain in children during isolation

The isolation measures carried out during the COVID-19 pandemic have a negative impact on the nutrition, sleep and physical activity of children and adolescents, this applies particularly to children with obesity, as a recent study shows.

A recent joint study by the University at Buffalo, Louisiana State University and the University of Verona in Italy found that home isolation had a negative impact on children's lifestyle, which could even cause obesity to worsen. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Obesity".

Do children gain more in times of isolation?

Children and adolescents typically gain more weight during the summer vacation than during the school year. This prompted the researchers to find out whether isolation at home during COVID-19 would have a similar effect on children's lifestyle and behavior.

41 children were examined

41 overweight children from Verona in Italy were examined for the study. These children were asked not to leave their homes in March and April to protect themselves from COVID-19 disease. All of the participating children were part of a long-term study.

Lifestyle information was evaluated

Three weeks prior to Italy's mandatory national lockdown, lifestyle information related to diet, activity, and sleep was collected and compared to the 2019 data on children. The questions focused on physical activity, screen time, sleep, eating habits and the consumption of red meat, pasta, snacks, fruits and vegetables.

Effects on lifestyle

It was noticed that the children had an additional meal every day, they slept half an hour longer, spent almost five hours a day in front of smartphones, computers and televisions, and dramatically increased their consumption of red meat, sugary drinks and so-called junk food, report the researchers. Physical activity, on the other hand, decreased by more than two hours a week, while the amount of vegetables consumed remained unchanged.

Unexpected side effects from COVID-19

“The tragic COVID-19 pandemic has side effects that go beyond direct viral infection. Children and adolescents who struggle with obesity are in an unfortunate situation of isolation, which seems to create an unfavorable environment for maintaining healthy living habits, ”explains study author Dr. Myles Faith of the University at Buffalo in a press release.

Better structured daily routine during school hours

The school environment offers structure and routine around meals, physical activity and sleep. These are three predominant lifestyle factors that affect the risk of obesity, reports Dr. Faith. The results of the study confirmed the negative behavior change and indicated that children with obesity performed worse at weight control programs at home than during school lessons. Depending on the length of isolation, being overweight is not easily reversible and can contribute to obesity in adulthood if healthier behaviors are not reintroduced.

What can be done?

The identified effects of isolation on weight in adolescents with obesity should be taken into account when making decisions about when and how current COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed. There is also a need to set up and evaluate telemedicine programs that encourage families to choose a healthy lifestyle during the period of isolation, Dr Faith adds. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Angelo Pietrobelli, Luca Pecoraro, Alessandro Ferruzzi, Moonseong Heo, Myles Faith et al .: Effects of COVID-19 Lockdown on Lifestyle Behaviors in Children with Obesity Living in Verona, Italy: A Longitudinal Study, in Obesity (published Apr 30, 2020), Obesity
  • COVID-19 lockdowns worsen childhood obesity, University at Buffalo (Posted Jun 3, 2020), University at Buffalo

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