An England-wide survey of over 5,000 adults found that 80 per cent of people aged over 18 have made the decision to change their lifestyle in 2021.
Of those, 70 per cent want to become healthier and fitter due to the threats posed by coronavirus (COVID-19).
Among the most popular changes that people want to make is to exercise more (41 per cent of all respondents) and to lose weight (39 per cent). Two in five (40 per cent) want to eat more healthily.
Evidence in the study – published by Public Health England
– shows that being obese significantly increases your chance of being admitted to intensive care with COVID-19 compared to those with a healthy body mass index (BMI).
The effect of the pandemic is obvious. Compared to last year (beginning of 2020), nearly half of the population (43 per cent) now feel more motivated to make changes to their life in January.
The survey also revealed that the impact of the pandemic saw people’s behaviours become more unhealthy during 2020.
Nearly a third (30 per cent) said they were exercising less in the latter half of the year, while 29 per cent of smokers agreed they smoked more since the second national lockdown.
The research is further evidence of the role played by the sport and physical activity sector – and gyms in particular – in keeping people healthy and fit.
Gyms were among the first businesses to be ordered to close their doors on 23 March and among the last to be allowed to re-open.
If the current, third lockdown lasts until 23 March, it will mean that, in the past 12 months, gyms and fitness facilities will only have been operating for 121 days
, losing more than 240 trading days and more than 700m individual visits to facilities.
Industry body ukactive has already called on the government to ensure physical activity facilities will be at "the front of the queue"
to reopen, once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
"There is no doubt 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone," said public health minister Jo Churchill.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted particularly the impact obesity can have on some people’s health and health outcomes."
GP and TV presenter, Dr Dawn Harper, said: "The impact that COVID-19 has had on our physical health and mental wellbeing is huge.
"We saw households across England revert to unhealthy eating habits and reducing the amount of exercise they undertook. However, 2020 has also caused us to feel more motivated to make lasting changes in the new year."