Pandemic restrictions hurt kids’ fitness


Sudbury’s medical officer of health encourages school boards and sports organizations to increase physical activity for young people

Children don’t get enough exercise.

It’s one of the “unintended consequences” of the various lockdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health for Public Health Sudbury & Districts (PHSD).

Sutcliffe’s position was exposed in a briefing note (see page 59) to be presented this week at the regular monthly meeting of the PHSD Board of Health.

In his report, Sutcliffe wrote that stay-at-home orders and restrictions on indoor and outdoor spaces led to reduced levels of physical activity across all age groups. She said the percentage of young people meeting physical activity recommendations has increased from around 51% in 2018 to 37% in 2020.

“While the development of physical literacy in children and youth was a growing concern prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the issue has become more pressing given the long-term health implications of physical inactivity and sedentary behaviors,” she said.

Sutcliffe’s brief to the board of health also cited a ParticipACTION Newsletter on physical activity for children and young people (2021), which indicated that only 36% of children aged 8 to 12 met or exceeded the minimum recommended level of physical literacy.

Sutcliffe recommends that all local school boards, sports organizations and even early learning centers increase all physical activity programs for the children and youth in their care.

Sutcliffe said this would include “working with Sport for Life Society, Active Sudbury and Public Health Sudbury & Districts, agencies that provide comprehensive physical literacy training for teachers, coaches, recreation providers and early childhood educators.”

The board of health will be asked to vote on Sutcliffe’s recommendation.

It has also been noted that increasing physical activity can have a positive impact on mental health. This was based on a report from Ontario Science Table published in June 2022.

“Increased physical activity and decreased sedentary behavior have positive effects on mental well-being and are associated with reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. These effects were well established before the COVID pandemic -19”, says the Science Table document.

The report also notes that Public Health Sudbury is a founding member of the Active Sudbury organization.

“Public Health Sudbury & Districts’ partnership with Active Sudbury is integral to providing best practices, tools and supports that will promote physical literacy in the communities we serve,” Sutcliffe’s report said.


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