Children’s exercise levels ‘remain concerning’ post-pandemic

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Children spend more time sitting during the week compared to before the pandemic, a new study suggests.

The amount of time children spend sedentary during the week is 13 minutes longer each day compared to pre-pandemic, academics at the University of Bristol found.

They said that this increased level of inactivity is “concerning”.

The new study, published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, saw experts examine accelerometer data of pupils and their parents in the Bristol area.

Researchers compared information from 1,296 children and their parents before Covid, 393 children and their parents between June 2021 and December 2021 and 436 children and their parents between January 2022 and July 2022.

The accelerometers measured average activity levels and sedentary time across week days and weekends.

The researchers concluded that there was no difference in the amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in the 2022 group of children compared to the pre-pandemic group.

But sedentary time among children remained higher than pre-pandemic by 13.2 minutes on weekdays.

And while activity levels had returned to pre-Covid levels, there are still a large proportion of children failing to meet UK physical activity guidelines of at least an hour on average of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.

Just 41% met this target.

Lead author Russ Jago, professor of physical activity and public health, said: “It’s encouraging that on average children’s physical activity levels are back to where they were before the pandemic.

“But it’s taken nearly a year since the last public lockdown was lifted, and children’s increased sedentary time during the week has persisted, which is an area of concern for policy makers, schools, and parents.”

Co-author Dr Ruth Salway, senior research associate in epidemiology and statistics, added: “The findings suggest physical activity is susceptible to disruptions in provision and leisure opportunities, and highlight that still not enough 10 to 11-year- olds meet the guidelines.”

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