Health experts call for focus on kids’ fitness


Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease, first reported by the Municipal Health Commission of Wuhan, China, in December 2019, and later confirmed as a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March 2020.

Associated infection control measures such as isolation and social distancing may have had a unique impact on children’s physical and mental health.

New research reveals concerns about children’s health and fitness changes as a result of the pandemic.

As COVID-19 reaches record levels in the UK, health experts are calling for a focus on children’s fitness.

The research was carried out by Newcastle University (UK), University of South Australia, Edinburgh Napier University and Murdoch University. The study assessed one-year changes in children’s fitness and health-related quality of life, as well as body mass index (BMI), following the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns in the Kingdom -United.

Children’s fitness levels are important independent predictors of health outcomes, including cardiovascular and skeletal health, adiposity, and mental well-being. Health-related quality of life is a complex and subjective view of physical, social and emotional well-being related to an individual’s state of health.

Study results: Regarding health data

The researchers found that for children aged 8 to 10:

  • 51% of children were classified as “unfit” (compared to 35% at baseline)
  • 47% of children were overweight or obese (compared to 33% at baseline)
  • The children’s body mass increased by an average of 6.8 kg, about twice the amount expected during this period.

UniSA researcher Dr Naomi Burn says the study highlights the vital importance of physical fitness for children’s health and wellbeing post-pandemic.

“When COVID-19 hit the UK in 2020, infection control measures meant schools closed for most pupils; outdoor playgrounds and sports clubs closed, and for many months outdoor exercise was limited to just one hour a day.

“These unprecedented restrictions have had a distinct impact on the physical and mental health of children, with almost half of children presenting as obese and more than half classified as unfit.

“As the pandemic persists, we must recognize the need to keep children healthy and active. Not only will it benefit them now, but also later in life.

“Right now, we need governments, schools and communities to establish programs and policies that can support participation in sport and physical activity. This is vital for the recovery of children’s health both after confinement and in the event of future restrictions. »

Limitations of the study:

  1. Relatively small sample size due to COVID-19 protocols
  2. Most of the children were of white ethnicity, from a disadvantaged area, so the researchers could not generalize to less disadvantaged populations or other ethnicities.
  3. The researchers were unable to attribute the detrimental changes in 20mSRT and BMI performance directly to blockages due to the lack of a comparison group.

“Taken together, the importance of sport, physical activity and fitness for recovery from COVID-19 lockdowns must be recognised, with programs to increase participation accelerated and policies in place to support continued activity and involvement, both now and in the future. restrictions are necessary. The study ends.

Journal reference

  1. Laura Basterfield, Naomi L Burn, Brook Galna, Hannah Batten, Louis Goffe, Guoda Karoblyte, Matt Lawn and Kathryn L Weston (2022) Changes in children’s physical fitness, BMI and health-related quality of life after the first lockdown of 2020 COVID-19 in England: A longitudinal study, Journal of Sports Sciences, 40:10, 1088-1096, DOI: 10.1080/02640414.2022.2047504

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