How to encourage children to exercise more
- Our exercise regimes have been affected by the lockdown; however, it is essential to encourage an active lifestyle in children, before sedentary habits set in in the young.
- Research from Canada, America, China and Italy shows a causal link between COVID-19 restrictions and lower activity levels in children.
- Routine and structure are helpful; try encouraging regular walks, after-school activity clubs, or even having a pet dog, suggests a psychologist.
Lockdowns during the pandemic were intended to limit the spread of COVID-19 and related deaths. However, these closures have also affected how active people are. The children have become much more sedentary.
There is a risk that short-term changes in children’s physical activity in response to COVID-19 will eventually extend beyond the duration of the pandemic. It is very easy for habits to settle and for a more sedentary and less physically active lifestyle to become normal and ingrained in young people.
However, there are ways to encourage children to be more active. These include getting the whole family involved in physical activity and making exercise part of a routine.
A global trend
Research from around the world has examined the extent of COVID-19 restrictions on children and their level of physical activity.
Canadian researchers conducted an online survey of parents of 1,472 young people during COVID-19 restrictions. They found that only 4.8% of children aged 5 to 11 met the Canadian 24-Hour Travel Guidelines, which include one hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day. For youth aged 12 to 17, the number of youth meeting the guidelines was only 0.6%.
Another study surveyed 211 parents of American children ages five to 13. It revealed that children were spending about 90 minutes a day sitting for school-related activities, and an additional eight hours a day sitting for leisure purposes during the pandemic.
A study in Shanghai, China compared the activity levels of 2,426 young people aged 6 to 17 before and during the pandemic. He found that, overall, the time young people spent in physical activity dropped significantly, from about nine hours a week to less than two hours a week. Screen time increased by about 30 hours per week on average.
The story was similar in Italy. The researchers compared the behavior of a group of 41 obese children before the pandemic and three weeks after the national lockdown in Italy. The time spent by children in sports activities has decreased during the pandemic, while sleep and screen time have increased.
The first global pandemic in over 100 years, COVID-19 has spread across the globe at unprecedented speed. As of this writing, 4.5 million cases have been confirmed and more than 300,000 people have died from the virus.
As countries seek to recover, some of the longer-term economic, trade, environmental, societal and technological challenges and opportunities are just beginning to become visible.
To help all stakeholders – communities, governments, businesses and individuals understand the emerging risks and follow-on effects generated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Marsh and McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group , launched his COVID-19 Risk Outlook: Preliminary Mapping and Implications – a companion for decision-makers, building on the Forum’s annual Global Risks Report.
Companies are invited to join the work of the Forum to help manage identified emerging risks of COVID-19 across all sectors to shape a better future. Read all COVID-19 Risk Outlook: Preliminary Mapping and Implications Report Here, and our impact story with further information.
Given the many physical and psychological benefits of increased physical activity, children should be given many opportunities and encouraged to be physically active.
Family involvement play an important role in children’s activity levels. Encouragement of parents and parents who participate in physical activities with their children is associated with higher indoor and outdoor physical activity and games for children.
One way to respond to the uncertainty of COVID is to develop routine and structure for children. Promoting a sense of predictability at home can greatly help children cope with an uncertain world. Regular weekend or after-school family walks or exercise classes can be a very positive way to help children feel safe and fulfilled.
Kids love to stay active with lessons, from dancing to swimming to soccer. During the confinement, these classes had to stop, but many have now reopened. They are a great way for kids to socialize and stay fit.
For some people, however, these courses are no longer an option. Some activities may be permanently closed or families may have less disposable income than before the pandemic. Parents can be anxious about their children taking lessons with other children.
Parental anxiety can impact children’s physical activity. The children of parents who were more anxious in Canada visited the park less than children of less anxious parents during the pandemic.
During lockdowns, the cancellation of sports and activity classes inspired programs offering online fitness classes for kids. It’s a great way to allow children to be physically active at home in situations where their parents might not feel comfortable with them attending the large classes they attended before the pandemic. .
It’s really important for children to be physically active and to move on from a more sedentary lifestyle as adults.