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Children’s physical activity dropped during COVID lockdowns but didn’t bounce back – new UK research

Creator : Ruth Salway, Senior Analysis Affiliate in Statistics/Epidemiology, College of Bristol

In the course of the COVID pandemic, lockdowns and faculty closures caused important adjustments to kids’s alternatives to be energetic. Whereas the exact guidelines diversified around the globe, most international locations skilled some degree of restrictions for a time.

Unsurprisingly, when every thing is closed and the steerage is to remain at residence the place doable, exercise ranges go down. For youngsters, when colleges are closed, there’s no strolling or biking to high school, no bodily schooling classes, no taking part in within the playground and no golf equipment after college. The place their entry to parks and play areas is restricted, and when sports activities golf equipment and amenities are closed, children lose additional alternatives to be energetic.

So it’s not shocking that proof from around the globe reveals kids had been doing much less train on the top of the pandemic. However what about when restrictions started to raise, and colleges reopened? Our new analysis suggests bodily exercise amongst kids within the UK didn’t bounce again to pre-pandemic ranges.

What we did

In our examine, we measured the bodily exercise ranges of 393 kids aged 10-11 and their dad and mom, recruited from 23 major colleges within the Bristol space between Could and December 2021. Presently, colleges and plenty of different venues had re-opened, and through that summer time most authorized limits on social contact had been eliminated.

We then in contrast members’ exercise ranges with information from 1,296 kids (additionally aged 10-11) and their dad and mom from the identical colleges gathered three years earlier. Through the use of data from this earlier analysis, we had been capable of see if there have been variations in little one and mum or dad bodily exercise once we performed our examine, in contrast with earlier than the pandemic.

To measure exercise at each time factors, every little one wore an accelerometer, a small machine worn on the hip that is sort of a very correct pedometer. For every little one, we calculated the common time spent doing moderate-to-vigorous bodily exercise every day.

That is exercise that will get kids barely sizzling, barely sweaty and out of breath. The UK chief medical officers advocate that each one kids and younger folks ought to do an hour of such a exercise each day.

We additionally calculated the youngsters’s common sedentary time – time spent sitting down or not transferring very a lot – and picked up details about journey to high school, after-school golf equipment and display screen viewing from each kids and oldsters by way of questionnaires.

Learn extra:
Youngsters exercised much less throughout lockdown – here is tips on how to get them transferring once more

We discovered that despite the fact that most COVID restrictions had been lifted by the point we collected our information, the youngsters had been much less energetic in comparison with children of an analogous age earlier than the pandemic.

On common, kids did round eight minutes much less moderate-to-vigorous bodily exercise per day in 2021, in contrast with earlier than the pandemic – a drop of 13%.

We additionally noticed an increase in sedentary time of almost half an hour per day throughout the week, and of 15 minutes at weekends. Nevertheless, not like some research undertaken throughout COVID lockdowns, we didn’t see variations by gender or socio-economic background – bodily exercise fell and sedentary time was larger in all teams by about the identical quantities.

We additionally discovered no distinction within the bodily exercise of the dad and mom in our examine, when put next with our pre-COVID group. So not like their kids, any drop in bodily exercise dad and mom might need skilled throughout lockdown reverted to regular ranges.

A girl watches a smartphone screen.
COVID lockdowns have seen kids doing much less bodily exercise.

Some challenges

It’s tough doing information assortment and analysis throughout a pandemic. A few of our information assortment was carried out remotely and a few in individual, whereas COVID outbreaks in colleges meant we typically needed to reschedule information collections at quick discover. And it’s at all times doable that one thing apart from the COVID pandemic is accountable for the traits we noticed – though it’s tough to think about what, particularly given the proof from different research and international locations.

It’s vital now to see if this sample continues or adjustments over time. If the decrease ranges of bodily exercise do persist, we have to perceive what’s inflicting this – and what we will do to encourage kids to be extra energetic once more. We plan to discover these points additional within the subsequent section of our examine, however we additionally want wider analysis in different components of the UK, and different international locations, to completely perceive the size of the issue.

Learn extra:
Rewild your children: why taking part in exterior needs to be a post-pandemic precedence

Bodily exercise is essential for youngsters’s well being and wellbeing. It’s a priority if what we perceived could be short-term reductions in exercise throughout the pandemic could, actually, be longer-lasting. Households, colleges and communities must work collectively to verify the alternatives are there for all kids to be bodily energetic as we emerge from the COVID pandemic.


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