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More than 40% of adults in England have gained weight during the pandemic, a survey suggests, with the average gain being half a stone (just over 3kg).

Public Health England (PHE), which surveyed 5,000 people, says Covid lockdowns and disrupted daily routines have made it challenging for people to eat healthy and keep fit.

Snacking and comfort eating were given as the main contributor by about half of those who said they were fatter.

PHE recommends a summer fitness drive.

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Its Better Health campaign offers free support and guidance on how to lose excess weight and become active using a 12-week plan.

Gaining weight is often a gradual process, it says, happening over years as a result of “modern-day life and the odd unhealthy habit”.

As well as the visible weight gain, fat can also build up around vital organs, making it harder for the body to fight against diseases such as cancer, heart disease and Covid.

But small, simple changes to diet and lifestyle can help shed excess pounds.

PHE chief nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone said: “The past 16 months have caused many to change their habits, so it is not a surprise to see so many people reporting weight gain.

“We know how hard it can be to lose weight and keep it off – so, we are providing a range of support options to help motivate people and help them maintain a healthy weight.

“It’s never too late to make changes to help improve your health.

“Visit the Better Health website for ideas and support that is right for you and you can seek support from your local weight-management service.”

Better Health has partnered with other organisations, including Slimming World, Weight Watchers and Noom, providing free or discounted offers.

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