German scientists call for more exercise opportunities for children

Bremen / Karlsruhe (Germany), Dec 16 (dpa) – Sports opportunities for children and adolescents in Germany declined significantly during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study, the results of which were released today by the Leibniz Institute for Preventive Research and Epidemiology.

Physical activity is particularly important for the health and development of young people, said Mirko Brandes of the Leibniz Institute in the German city of Bremen.

During an online conference on the impact of confinements on physical activity behavior, German scientists weighed the sport and stated that it should be possible enough for children and adolescents even during the current strict restrictions that apply in the country as part of the fight against the coronavirus.

According to the study, 74 percent of children and adolescents surveyed in Germany no longer had physical education as a school subject.

Experts stated that to avoid negative consequences, offers such as exercise homework and training are needed through online instruction. In addition, they expressed that it should be examined whether outdoor training was possible in small groups and with a minimum distance required.

Brandes also referred to studies carried out in Slovenia, which found that the physical condition of the children dropped dramatically after the closure. According to these investigations, coordination skills and endurance performance were particularly affected.

The development of motor skills is extremely important and this must also be taken into account during the coronavirus pandemic. Exercise has been shown to have a positive impact on health and is particularly important for children’s psychological and social development, Brandes said.

“The behavior of physical activity takes hold during childhood and adolescence,” he said. In addition, he explained that the restrictions imposed by the measures to reduce the spike in coronavirus infections at an important stage of development could have repercussions throughout life.

On the other hand, a study by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Karlsruhe University of Education, indicates that children and adolescents spent an average of 36 more minutes a day moving during the total closure in the spring (boreal), but they also spent an hour more in front of a screen.

“The best performers during the crisis were single-family houses with gardens, if you look at it from a motion perspective,” said study leader Alexander Woll.

According to the study, children in apartment buildings are having a particularly difficult time in the pandemic. Similarly, he found that for inner-city infants, there is often very little space and opportunities to be active.

Woll said that the coronavirus pandemic transformed the living environment of children and young people. Organized sports at school and in clubs suddenly disappeared, he said.

Therefore, although the children had played more outdoors independently in the spring, this did not have the same intensity as training in a club. And for positive effects like increased fitness and stress prevention, a certain intensity is needed.

For the current closure of schools in Germany, the director of the Institute of Sports and Sports Sciences fears that inactivity will increase among young people. Especially in the dark winter season, he says, it’s hard to pursue daily exercise on your own.

But “in every crisis there is an opportunity,” he stressed, hoping that society will be more aware of the importance of sport. “We not only need an education agreement for digitization, but an agreement for more exercise is just as important.”

Online sports offerings could even reach new target groups, Woll said.

For the World Health Organization (WHO), regular exercise has many positive effects. According to the entity, sport helps prevent diseases, can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improves memory. For children and adolescents, the WHO recommends 60 minutes of exercise a day.

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## Editorial contacts – Authors: Helen Hoffmann (Bremen) – Editor: Yoandry Viera Bermudez (Hamburg) – Editor: Juan Garff (Buenos Aires)

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