The impact of the novel coronavirus movement restrictions in the United Kingdom on food outlet usage and body mass index

Ahmad Albalawi, Catherine Hambly, John R. Speakman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Many countries have implemented various levels of lockdown to mitigate the spread of the global SARS‐CoV‐2 pandemic. In the United Kingdom, the national lockdown restrictions were implemented between 26 March 2020 and 4 July 2020. These restrictions required all restaurants to close except for takeaway and delivery services. Moreover, individuals were instructed to largely stay in their homes, unless they were identified as essential workers, and to only leave home once per day for exercise. These restrictions might have an impact on energy intake and expenditure, thereby affecting their body weight. Aims: The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of the movement restrictions in the United Kingdom on food outlet usage and body mass index (BMI).

Materials and Methods: Food outlet usage surveys were filled out for 7 consecutive days before and during the lockdown. Changes in BMI and food outlet usage before and during the lockdown were measured. A total of 206 participants were included in this study.

Results: The mean overall BMI prior to lockdown was 25.8 ± 5.2 kg·m2, and during the lockdown, it was 25.9 ± 5.3 kg·m2 (t= 0.19, p= 0.85). Restaurant usage fell to zero as all establishments were closed. There was a corresponding increase in the use of delivery services to 1.18 ± 0.13 times per week, compared to 0.50 ± 0.05 prior to lockdown (t= 4.44, p<0.0001). No significant difference in the number of takeaway meals ordered was observed (0.67 ± 0.06 before the lockdown and 0.74 ± 0.12 times per week during the lockdown; t= 0.52, p = 0.60). There was no significant relationship between change in use of fast‐food restaurants and full‐service restaurants and the change in BMI, either alone or in combination (β = −0.012, p = 0.62, R2 = 0.11%).

Discussion: Despite the large changes in behavior, there was no overall adverse effect of the lockdown with respect to obesity levels.

Conclusion: Lockdown in the United Kingdom modified restaurant use but had no effect on obesity levels.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)302-306
Number of pages5
JournalObesity Science & Practice
Issue number3
Early online date26 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Research funding
University of Tabuk. Grant Number: 14451

The authors thank Vasileios Kyparissis and Florina Birkert for their work with us in distributing and collecting the surveys. Ahmad Albalawi was supported by a studentship from the University of Tabuk, Saudi Arabia (KSA) project code CF10434-63. John R, Speakman was supported by a Wolfson merit award from the Royal Society and a Presidents International Fellowship Initiative award from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.


  • COVID‐19
  • lockdown
  • obesity
  • physical activity
  • takeaway and delivery intake


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