There’s one thing that keeps rising during the recession: America’s obesity rate has increased more than 1 percent to 26.4 percent, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index poll. The economic downturn is slimming wallets and adding mountains of stress as consumers avoid dining out and cancel expensive personal training packages. With unemployment in the double digits, tight-fisted consumers have turned to cheaper means to feed their families.
Experts agree that recession anxiety is making Americans more prone to weight-related illnesses such as diabetes. About 70 percent of respondents to a recent Washington University survey said healthier foods are becoming increasingly difficult to afford. Meanwhile, consumers are turning to inexpensive grab-and-go snacks such as chips, cookies, and candy in between meals. (Oftentimes, they are the meal.) But physical activity can boost your mood, so if you stopped going to a gym because you can no longer afford membership, go for a bike ride or watch an old exercise DVD to burn calories.
“Keep a list of activities you enjoy, which might make you feel better and provide you with alternatives when you feel the urge to eat inappropriately,” said Amy Dixon, Group Fitness Manager of Equinox Fitness Clubs in Santa Monica, California. “Consistent exercise is a known antidote to depression. Plus, most stress now stems from feeling like your life is out of your control.” Try to find manageable steps to make you feel more in charge by scheduling workouts with friends, doing yoga in your living room to decompress—and you’ll ultimately feel less overwhelmed. “And don’t forget the soothing powers of yoga and other mind-body exercises such as Tai Chi and swimming,” says Dixon.