The percentage of people reporting weight gain in Japan fell this year for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, a company survey showed Wednesday, as physical activities increased amid the easing of restrictions.

The percentage of people who had gained weight compared to a year ago stood at 22.9 percent in 2023, down from 26.0 percent the year before, breaking a trend that saw the figure rise annually since 2020, according to Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co.

The drop likely reflects that people have had more opportunities to be active since the removal of coronavirus restrictions, a company official said.

Of the 5,640 respondents in their 20s to 70s, 38.4 percent said that they started exercising to improve their health during the pandemic, which began about three years ago, according to the online survey held in July.

File photo taken in June 2022 shows people jogging around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

Among them, 85.1 percent said they are continuing to exercise, with the most popular sports being walking, jogging and running, followed by cycling and golf.

In addition, 13.1 percent said they felt less stressed after the Japanese government downgraded the legal status of COVID-19 to the same as seasonal influenza in May, while 15.3 percent reported increased stress following the move.

The most common reason cited for people reported experiencing either less or more stress was "having more opportunities to meet people," the survey said.

"People's views on connecting with others are becoming increasingly polarized," the official said.

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