Miraculous Quarantine Weight Loss and Fitness Tips

The final straw came from the New York Times. Yesterday, Gretchen Reynolds wrote that she had found the perfect study on fitness for our times. It’s all about sprinkling intense four-second workouts throughout your day – miraculous quarantine fitness. Put it together with articles warning us about the “Quarantine-15” and what do you have? Fuel for anxiety.

We’ve had enough of that.

The Seven-Second Workout: a sketchbook by Roz Chast http://t.co/IpA8yfHiEA

— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) January 27, 2015

A Nice Little Study

The study that Reynolds wrote about is nice enough. Researchers report on finding that four-second bursts of intense cycling can overcome some of the harmful metabolic effects of sitting. However, the devil is in the details. Four seconds might not sound like much, but then you have to multiply that by 40. That’s right. The subjects in this study stopped what they were doing 40 times throughout the day to pump as hard as they could on a bike for four seconds.

Four seconds doesn’t sound like much. But interrupting whatever you’re doing 40 times a day certainly does. In an eight-hour day, that’s an interruption every ten minutes. We’re speculating here, but that might cut into a person’s productivity.

Then there’s the matter of sample size. This was a study of only eight people – four men and four women. So maybe this quarantine fitness miracle is not so miraculous.

The Quarantine 15

On top of glib fitness advice, we’re seeing a lot of unhelpful content and unfunny jokes about gaining weight during this period of isolation. To some it may seem harmless. But for others, especially people living with an eating disorder, it’s simply destructive. It even has a hashtag – the #Quarantine15.

Writing in Obesity, Rebecca Pearl warns that such content on social media may become a source of significant harm for people living with obesity during the pandemic:

Social media posts that stigmatize obesity and mock or diminish real struggles with weight and eating are harmful to people across the weight spectrum, and they may be particularly detrimental to individuals with obesity who are actively trying to manage their weight.

Self-Compassion and Anxiety

Daniele Di Pauli is a psychotherapist living and working in northern Italy, where the experience with the pandemic has been especially intense. He tells us that he is seeing a lot of patients with anxiety:

Now it is normal to be worried and feel uncertainty of the future. In these days, there are too many posts about diet, eating, and gaining weight. They can be dangerous. The nature of these writings increases fear of weight gain and sense of failure. Self-compassion can be very helpful in this situation.

So please, think before you add to this problem. If you’re writing about health and well-being during these anxious times, think first before you add to the problem. We don’t really need jokes about weight gain or impractical fitness tips. Good information and clues for coping are always welcome.

For more on self-care during the pandemic, click here.

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April 30, 2020

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