'Wake-up call' - study shows how children's exercise has declined due to Covid-19

Young child sprinting during a traditional school event

Fewer children have been running and taking part in other sports and exercise, due to coronavirus restrictions - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Are your children getting enough exercise in lockdown? Worrying new research reveals how levels of physical exercise for youngsters have fallen in Suffolk.

Activity levels for children and young people in the county fell by 8.5% during the 2019-20 academic year, a new study has found.

Active Suffolk, which promotes physical activity and sport, carried out research into the situation in the county as Sport England's annual Active Lives survey showed a similar decline in children's sport and exercise nationwide. 

Little boy wearing safety helmet and riding his first bike on cold day, outdoors

Fewer children have had the opportunity to take part in active leisure events during lockdown. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Tony Bush, head of operations at Active Suffolk, said “Although we are naturally disappointed and concerned by the results of the Active Lives Survey and the predictable decrease during the pandemic, it should act as a wake-up call for everyone in Suffolk who cares about the future health and well-being of our children and young people.

"I would strongly encourage everyone who has a role to play in this area to work with Active Suffolk to enable Suffolk to improve the physical activity levels of all our children and young people.”

Working with Healthwatch Suffolk, Active Suffolk commissioned an in-depth survey into children and young people’s physical activity. It revealed the number exercising for the recommended 60 minutes a day was low, and activity levels had fallen further during lockdown.

Children who were inactive were most likely to say their mental health, wellbeing and self-esteem were low.


Keep Moving Suffolk is aiming to help children keep active. - Credit: Keep Moving Suffolk

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It also found that, although most children reported receiving parental encouragement to remain active, one in five felt they were not supported by their parents to do so.

Active Suffolk has worked with a wide range of partners to support children to keep active during the pandemic. Initiatives included the School Games programme in July and the Keep Moving Suffolk campaign. It has also been developing a young people's physical activity strategy for the next five years, to be launched in spring.

James Reeder, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for public health and prevention, said, “Exercise is one way we can all help our children during the unprecedented times we’re living in.

"Because it has the power to support their physical, social and emotional development, it has never been more important to ensure it’s built into their daily routines. I commend the work that many organisations are doing to encourage Suffolk’s children to be active."

For more information on how to help children keep active, visit the Keep Moving Suffolk website.