This Is The Real Reason You Gained Weight During Lockdown, Study Says

When you are sitting, sensors in your body think you weigh less than you really do.

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Given your limited options to be active these last several months in lockdown, there's no shame if you found yourself spending a little more time parked on your couch than you normally would. The downside to a more sedentary lifestyle, however, is that you may find that you put on a few pounds. It's not exactly rocket science—sitting more and moving less leads to weight gain, right? While, yes, that is true in a broad sense, a new study suggests that there's much more to it than that, and it may partially explain why you've gained weight in lockdown. In fact, the reason you might be inclined to gain weight (or at least not lose it) when you are in a sedentary position like sitting may be the result of your body tricking itself to thinking you weigh less than you actually do.

In a new study published in EClinical Medicine, scientists set out to determine whether or not something called the "gravitostat"—a homeostatic regulation of body weight they found existed in rodents in a prior study—existed in human beings. The gravitostat is an internal system of cells and sensors which use "the body's pressure against the earth to sense its weight and send messages to the brain about whether that weight had grown or declined," The New York Times reported. It's like a little scale in your body and essentially it wants to keep your weight the way it's used to, even if you are overweight or obese. However, once you go over a certain line, the gravitostat kicks into action and tells the brain that the body needs to lose some of those excess pounds—at least that's what the findings of the rodent study indicated.

Female bare feet with weight scale in the bathroom
iStock

But does the same system exist in people?

The scientist observed 69 participants who were randomly given either a "low load" or "high load" weighted vest to wear, hoping to find out "if artificially increased weight loading decreases biological body weight also in obese humans," the same way it had in rodents. The short answer, the say, is yes.

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According to the researchers, "high load treatment resulted in a more pronounced relative body weight loss compared to low load treatment." This leads them to two key takeaways: The gravitostat very well may exist in humans and if that is the case, it responds to new weight being added, not just being overweight or obese in general. Put that in the context of lockdown and it may explain a lot. And for tips on becoming more active, check out 25 Ways to Boost Your Energy Level Without Coffee.

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