CARY, N.C. (WNCN) – Weight gain can bring on a range of medical conditions that could mean long-term health problems. It also increases the risk of significant complications or even death for those who contract COVID-19.

“What I hear often is, you know, I’ve struggled with my weight for years. I’ve tried diet and exercise, and then COVID hit and I gained 20, 30, or more pounds,” said Dr. Christopher McGowan

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found patients are gaining an average of half a pound a week or two pounds a month since the pandemic began. McGowan, a gastroenterologist and obesity medicine specialist with True You Weight Loss in Cary, has seen a 200-percent increase in obesity patients in the last year.

Many people have been working from home or have been laid off from work. Stress, alcohol, and snacking are all contributing factors. It’s also not just about dedicating time to exercise or go to the gym.

“If you’re sitting at home, in your home office at a desk, not driving to work, walking into work, down the hall in the office, all of those things add up normally. If you’re working at home, get up and move throughout the day. It really adds up. Short walks — even a couple of minutes, an hour, trying to stay more active,” McGowan said.