TUM study on diet and exercise since the beginning of the Corona pandemic presented

How did the Corona pandemic change the dietary and exercise behavior of adults and thus their weight? This question was investigated by scientists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). Around 40 percent of those surveyed have gained weight since the start of the pandemic. Slightly more than half also exercise less than before the Corona crisis.

That they have gained weight since the start of the Corona pandemic is stated with above-average frequency by 30 to 44 year-olds (48 percent) and by respondents who already had a weight problem before (53 percent). This is one of the results of the survey conducted by the Else Kröner-Fresenius Endowment Professorship (EKFZ) at TUM together with the opinion research institute Forsa.

This analysis is based on the online survey of 1,001 adults between the ages of 18 and 70 in April 2021 as part of a systematic random procedure. Prof. Dr. Hans Hauner, Professor of Nutritional Medicine at TUM, and Prof. Dr. Renate Oberhoffer-Fritz, dean of the Department of Sport and Health Sciences and head of the Chair of Preventive Pediatrics, commented on the data during an expert discussion.

The higher the respondents' body mass index (BMI), the more likely they were to say they had gained weight since the pandemic began. "Corona is thus fueling the obesity pandemic," says nutrionist Prof. Dr. Hauner. On average, the weight gain is 5.6 kilograms, and among respondents with a higher BMI of over 30, there is even a weight gain of 7.2 kilograms on average.

"In turn, obesity is considered a driver of the COVID-19 pandemic, because as BMI increases, so does the risk of developing severe corona. Thus, a vicious circle results from the interaction of corona and obesity," explains Prof. Hauner. Regardless of COVID-19, excessive weight costs about 80,000 to 100,000 lives in Germany every year. "The collateral damage from focusing on corona is therefore enormous in the area of many lifestyle-related diseases," Prof. Hauner says.

However, the majority (over 60 percent) of respondents say their dietary behavior has not fundamentally changed since the pandemic began. Comparatively often, respondents say they have more time to eat (33 percent) and that they eat more often out of boredom (28 percent). These are predominantly unfavorable foods such as sweets, fast food or sugar-sweetened beverages. This behavior is found especially among people who feel psychologically burdened by the pandemic.

"The energy requirement of an adult - depending on age, gender and weight - is between 1,500 and 2,500 kcal per day. The goal when eating must therefore be a good, but not excessive, supply of the energy carriers carbohydrates, fats, protein, as well as vitamins, minerals and trace elements, i.e. a complete diet," explains Prof. Hauner.

52 percent of those surveyed move less since the beginning of the Corona crisis than before. The higher the BMI, the more frequently (60 percent) the respondents state that they now move less. Respondents cite the fact that they get less exercise in their daily lives (54 percent) as a reason for the decline in physical activity, but also that the facilities for individual or group exercise - such as gyms or fitness studios - are closed (53 percent).

"Activity and exercise are important to strengthen our health and also our well-being," says Prof. Oberhoffer-Fritz. "Adults should be active for at least 150 minutes a week at moderate to high intensity. Classic endurance sports such as cycling, running and swimming are ideal here." In addition, the dean emphasizes that "a balanced diet and regular physical activity are crucial prerequisites for health, fitness and performance."

"Those who eat a low-fat diet and get enough exercise get more out of life - and this is true not only in Corona times," sums up Prof. Hauner.


To the summary of the study results

To the homepage of the Else Kröner-Fresenius Endowment Professorship


Prof. Dr. Renate Oberhoffer-Fritz
Dean Department of Sport and Health Sciences
Chair of Preventive Pediatrics
Georg-Brauchle Ring 60/62
80992 München

phone: 089 289 24601
e-mail: renate.oberhoffer(at)tum.de

Prof. Dr. Hans Hauner
Chair of Nutritional Medicine
Georg-Brauchle-Ring 62
80992 München

phone: 08161 71 2000
e-mail: hans.hauner(at)tum.de

Text: Dr. Katharina Baumeister/Corporate Communications Center
Photos: Pixabay/Andreas Heddergott/TUM/Julia Eberle/TUM