COVID-19 pandemic… what about the obesity and inactivity “pandemics”?

  • J H Kirby Stellenbosch University
  • R G Duffett Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic, obesity, inactivity “pandemics”


With South Africa and the rest of the globe in lockdown for COVID-19, every citizen is finally grasping the meaning and extent of the word “pandemic”. Yet, there are other “silent pandemics” that receive insufficient media attention, viz. the obesity “pandemic”1 and the inactivity “pandemic”, which were first described in 2012.2 The prevalence of obesity is rising even amongst the youth3 and even without the added factor of being confined indoors, global physical inactivity is rising.4 However, has the economic impact of inactivity been considered? Global obesity and physical inactivity’s contribution towards chronic diseases and premature death is estimated to have a cost of up to $145 billion annually, as estimated in 2013.5 Furthermore, a quarter of  the world’s adults (1.4 billion) are susceptible to physical inactivity-related diseases.4 Kohl et al. reported that up to 10% of global non-communicable diseases (NCDs) deaths result from physical inactivity, whereas the percentage increases to 30% for specific disease categories such as heart disease.2 Millions of global deaths from NCDs could have been circumvented if people were passably physically active.2

Author Biographies

J H Kirby, Stellenbosch University

Campus Health Service, Stellenbosch University and Institute of Sport and Exercise Medicine, Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, Department of Surgical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University and International Olympic Committee Research Centre, South Africa

R G Duffett, Cape Peninsula University of Technology

Faculty of Business and Management Sciences, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa

How to Cite
Kirby, J., & Duffett, R. (2020). COVID-19 pandemic… what about the obesity and inactivity “pandemics”?. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 33(2), 27-30. Retrieved from
Guest Editorial