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Sharp Health News

Weight gain during COVID-19

July 17, 2020

Woman eating pizza on the couch

When stay-at-home orders went into effect and gyms closed in San Diego County to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many people found themselves struggling to maintain their usual routines, including eating a healthy diet and exercising. Add to that decreased overall physical activity and increased time spent on the couch, and it’s no wonder weight gain has been a common experience.

“I empathize with my patients during this challenging time,” says Dr. Leticia Polanco, a family medicine doctor affiliated with Sharp Community Medical Group and Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. “There’s less to do and it’s easy to let accountability slip with so much else on our minds.”

Maintaining a healthy weight is important to prevent and manage a number of health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. With these conditions placing patients at higher risk for complications from COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to keep weight at a healthy level. As a doctor and a mom of four, Dr. Polanco shares her tips for keeping weight under control during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Get in physical activity anywhere you can find it
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American College of Sports Medicine, U.S. Surgeon General and American College of Preventive Medicine all recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, five or more days a week,” Dr. Polanco says.

“Even though gyms may be closed, it is still possible to exercise using what you have around you. Go on a walk in your neighborhood or, if you can’t walk in your neighborhood, walk up and down the stairs in your home. You could also do jumping jacks in your garage or perform squats using the edge of your couch. Take a look around your home to see what else you may be able to use. Just make sure you talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.”

Take advantage of making your own meals
Dr. Polanco notes that one of the biggest changes during stay-at-home orders has been the closure of many restaurants, but this presents an opportunity to take charge of your homemade meals. “At restaurants, it can be difficult to manage portion sizes and ingredients, but at home, you get to choose,” she says. “Visit the American Heart Association’s website for advice on healthy portions and ingredients.”

See your doctor
It’s important to keep current on appointments with your doctor, especially if you have a chronic condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Many doctors are offering virtual visits, and some are now seeing patients in their office.

“Don’t be afraid to go to your doctor’s office or a hospital for the care you need,” says Dr. Polanco. “Medical professionals are taking safety precautions very seriously to protect against the spread of COVID-19.”

For the news media: To speak with Dr. Polanco for an upcoming story, please contact Erica Carlson at

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