The fact that children and young people are moving less is a long-running development, but one that has escalated during the pandemic. Research and reports have shown that children become heavier, move less and spend more time in front of screens. A report from the Swedish Sports Federation (RF) now shows that many sports federations are struggling with fewer members and that the biggest concern is losing teenagers.
In March, a two-year report was released with Corona, in which nearly 2,500 sports federations responded to a survey. The results show a difficult situation for unions – they have had to cancel training and lose members, the economy is sluggish and there are fears that the teenagers will not return again.
Some sports, such as sports that require physical contact, cannot be practiced during the pandemic, and have continued for a long time. Many unions fear that this will affect the behavior of children and young people, and that they will not return to them after the pandemic. Even if the new hiring process goes well, it’s a lost group that won’t find your way back, says Anders Albertson, RF’s regional sports director.
There were problems even before Covid
The Center for Physical Activity in Gothenburg runs several FaR clinics, and here people who have undertaken prescribed physical activity are admitted (FaR stands for ‘prescription physical activity’).
At receptions, it was clearly noted that children and young people move less during the epidemic.
We’ve seen a clear increase in the number of people who don’t actually exercise before, but it’s starting. And worst of all for teens, says Johann Sjostrom, physiotherapist and team coordinator, with support from fellow physiotherapist Anna Uralius:
– The BVC school nurses and nurses we communicate with also believe they see a difference. We also hear that mental illness is on the rise, as one might consider if there is a connection to reduced physical activity, he says.
Income and education play a role
The trend towards an increase in stable living is most pronounced among adolescents, and among the most socially and economically vulnerable groups. Not all families have the opportunity to pay for activities or combine them with the daily schedule. It can also be difficult for newcomers to find activities and learn how association life works.
In general, sedentary lives increase more in children and young adults with parents on low incomes, compared with children and young adults on low incomes. If you have physically active parents, the kids are also more active, and it’s important to know the habits and patterns in the family, says Sophia Nancler, operations manager at the Center for Physical Activity.
Children’s physical activity
The Swedish Public Health Agency recommends young people between the ages of six and 17 get one hour a day to get their heart rate up. At least three days a week you should do high-intensity activity that strengthens muscles and bones.
Today, only 2 out of 10 children reach the recommendations. Fewer girls are achieving goals, and fewer teens than younger children.
Anders Albertson, of the Swedish Sports Federation, sees this development hitting certain groups harder.
The pandemic has accelerated a process that I think we’ve been able to see before. Which parents you have and where you live is important. Many young people do not find their way into the life of clubs and sports if they have not grown up in it. Children generally move less, which is nothing new, and those who do not move in sports do not move at all.
The fact of reduced physical activity can also be seen in the sports movement in the motor ability of children who start different activities. When you move less, basic motor skills and understanding of movement do not develop as much.
The Swedish Armed Forces also certify that conscripts have a lower level of physical ability, mobility and fitness than several years ago.
Developing young children’s understanding of movement later is something that both physical therapists get to receive FaR, which Anders Albertson at RF can witness in person:
I used to be an athletics coach and come back after 20 years, and note that you have to teach some kids very basic skills like jumping. It is not entirely normal for everyone to be able to, and movement should be on the terms of all children. There I think school plays a big role, all the kids go to school and there you can create interest in the transition — even among those who haven’t come forward to exercise, he says.
Although the pandemic has accelerated development, it is the new habits of young people that may be one of the underlying causes, he believes. Young people live in a different reality with their lives on screen.
– Previously, you needed to go somewhere to be part of society, now you do not need to get out of bed. It is of course attractive. I think a lot of people want to move more, but the first barrier is hard to beat. Probably all adults recognize themselves in the fact that there is a threshold that is difficult to cross, says Anders Albertson.
Supported by Anna Uralius at the Center for Physical Activity:
It’s hard to get off the sofa and many may need help getting started. It is important to keep in mind that it is not only the individual who bears the responsibility. Large community actors, such as the school or in community planning, can be much better at work to get more involved, Anna Uralius says.
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