NEW YORK (CBS) - As many of us contemplate hitting the gym this year, British researchers along with scientists from the ZOE COVID symptom app found something surprising about folks who avoided gaining weight during the pandemic.
"What's really surprising is our research showed that for a large proportion of the population, it was actually an impetus to get healthier," said Dr. Sarah Berry, a researcher at King's College London.
The study included nearly a million volunteers in the United States and United Kingdom. Scientists found 32 percent of participants pushed themselves, losing an average of nearly nine pounds. Thirty-three percent ate more fruits and vegetables, while 22 percent snacked less.
"The people that started off before the pandemic with the least healthy diet and lifestyle behaviors went on to lose weight rather than gain weight, to improve their diet, to increase their physical activity, and to improve their sleep habits," said Dr. Berry.
When COVID-19 shut everything down, Lily Hutchinson had time on her hands.
"I really actually used that time in the pandemic to just exercise as much as I could," she said.
With gyms closed across the U.K., she biked at home until they reopened. Lily also noticed more than a physical change.
"The mental rewards I get from it after are just beyond worth it," she said.
Amber Nakamura taught classes online until she was back in her London studio.
"We've definitely seen a much wider group of people coming in," said the F45 studio manager.
She also noticed many newcomers shared something in common during the pandemic.
"I think that probably scared and motivated a lot to just get in, work on their fitness levels, try to improve their overall health," Nakamura said.
The pandemic gave some the time to focus on getting fit, both physically and mentally. Not everyone went on a health kick though. While nearly a third of participants lost weight, researchers found about the same amount of people gained more than seven pounds.
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