Ali Yates bucked the national trend and is backing a Welsh health campaign

The Coronavirus pandemic inspired Ali Yates to get on her bike and keep fit in lockdown.

With new figures revealing a third of people in North Wales have put on weight since the onset of Covid-19 – with the average gain being 6.1kg or nearly a stone – the 45 year-old has bucked the trend.

An Operations and Programme Manager for Sport Wales, based at Plas Menai Watersports Centre, Caernarfon, Ali decided the time was right to try and shed a few pounds and encouraged others to focus on their health and wellbeing given the challenges of the last 18 months.

“I realised lockdown could go one way or the other. I could either eat too much, drink too much and put on a stone. Or I could use the time as a good opportunity to get fitter and lose a stone,” she said.

An outdoor instructor for more than 20 years, Ali had struggled with her weight going into lockdown in 2020 and her new desk-based role limited time previously spent being active.

She decided, together with a group of friends who attend Slimming World in Bethesda, to take on the challenge of walking, cycling or running the equivalent distance from Land’s End to John O’Groats – a staggering 1,083 miles.

The group have also braved the Menai Straits on stand-up paddleboards, supported by the team at Plas Menai, took part in Aquadance sessions and began cycling regularly, all of which helped achieve her goal.

A report by YouGov in support of the Welsh Government’s Help Us, Help You campaign revealed more than 50% of responders in the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) region are eating less healthily than they were pre-pandemic.

And around 36% had partaken in fewer sports and fitness sessions despite admitting they had more time on their hands in lockdown.

Medical chiefs are urging people to access the vast range of resources and support available to them in a bid to reverse the trend and combat potential serious illness and conditions such as obesity and heart problems.

In addition to the NHS 111 Wales website there is information and guidance available on the Healthy Weight Cymru social media channels.

Beca Lyne-Pirkis, Health Weight Cymru Ambassador, urged anyone concerned about a decline in their wellbeing in past months to make simple alterations to their lifestyle, adding: “It’s not always easy to exercise regularly and eat healthily, and many have found recent lockdowns especially tricky.

“But even small changes can make a big difference to your health and make you feel better too.

“There is lots of information and advice on how to take more exercise, eat better and improve your wellbeing on the NHS 111 Wales Living Well website, so take a look.”