Children's physical fitness should be a focus of Covid recovery – Scotsman comment

Different people reacted to the Covid lockdown in different ways. But one worrying but understandable response was to stay at home, stop exercising and eat comfort food.

Exercise is particularly crucial for children (Picture: David Davies/PA)
Exercise is particularly crucial for children (Picture: David Davies/PA)

According to research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, 90 per cent of households increased their calorie intake during the pandemic, which peaked at over 15 per cent above normal around May last year and remained around 10 per cent above normal at the end of 2020.

So it may be that those of us who are some distance away from being ‘beach-body ready’ are secretly quite pleased to be giving foreign holidays in the sun a miss this summer.

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For those who have taken to this unhealthy lifestyle with particular enthusiasm over such a long period, there could be more serious consequences.

But perhaps our greatest concern should be for the health of the nation’s children, particularly given another report about the effect of the pandemic on school sports.

A report by fundraising platform revealed nearly three-quarters of primary schools stopped all sport and extra-curricular activities during the pandemic, with 45 per cent of children not getting the recommended daily amount of exercise. Furthermore, 12 per cent of football clubs are said to be facing permanent closure along with 55 per cent of gymnastics clubs. And suspended swimming lessons could leave hundreds of thousands of children unable to swim 25 metres.

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If they have been joining their parents in eating more food, as seems likely, these two factors combined could have a long-lasting effect on their physical fitness and health. And habits we form in childhood can last a life-time.

The loss of sports facilities risks a repeat of the situation that followed the protracted teachers strike of the mid-1980s, when many schools stopped doing out-of-hours sport, which some have suggested is one reason behind the 23-year gap between appearances by the national men’s football team at a major tournament.

There has been much talk about the need for school pupils to ‘catch up’ on lessons missed during lockdown.

However, a concerted effort must also be made to help children improve their physical fitness, which has been linked to better mental health and academic performance. We cannot allow the lives of another generation of children to be blighted by a lack of access to sport.

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