To get back into shape after pandemic, take baby steps, Mason health and sports expert says

Margaret Jones

Individuals who want to get back into shape after gaining weight during the pandemic should take small steps to control their caloric consumption and increase their exercise, says Margaret Jones, professor of sport management in George Mason University’s College of Education and Human Development.

“If you gained weight and lost your exercise routine over the pandemic, it’s going to take some time to get back into shape,” said Jones. “That’s not what people want to hear, but it’s the way the body works. To be successful, don’t try to do too much at once because that could end up frustrating and overwhelming you.”

Studies suggest that many Americans gained weight over the pandemic, along with becoming more sedentary, noted Jones. Individuals trying to get back to a healthier lifestyle should start will little changes, like eliminating cream and sugar from their coffee or taking a one-minute walking break each hour, said Jones. If one change works, then try adding another each month, said Jones.

“It will be trial and error to see what small changes or lifestyle adjustments work for each individual,” said Jones.

Jones also pointed out that some people will find that their interests are different since the pandemic. For example, maybe someone used to enjoy working out at the gym, but no longer wants to do so. In those situations, Jones said, don’t force yourself to do something you know longer like to do.

“Maybe now you want to do tennis, which has become popular again, or go hiking or biking or use equipment in your own home,” said Jones. “Give yourself permission to explore other ways to pursue exercise and be healthy than what you did before the pandemic.”

Jones emphasized the importance of setting goals while getting back into shape, but said those goals have to align with your interests and other time commitments, including work schedule.

“You can’t make an apple into an orange,” said Jones. “You have to find out what works for you.”

Jones serves as the director of the Patriot Performance Laboratory of Mason’s Frank Pettrone Center for Sports Performance. She has a PhD in exercise physiology from the University of Georgia and completed an NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship at Cornell University. She holds Fellow status in the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. She served on the NSCA Board of Directors from 2017 to 2020 and was honored as the 2008 NSCA Educator of the Year.

To reach Margaret Jones directly, please contact her at

For more information, contact Anna Stolley Persky at

About George Mason 
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