Researchers at Swansea University will monitor young people in Wales over the next year, as part of a new study that will assess the impact of COVID-19 on children’s physical activity, mental health and wellbeing.
The study, ‘Physical activity levels, mental health and wellbeing in children and young people in Wales during Covid-19’, will focus on Welsh children aged between eight to 16. It aims to support schools in promoting the importance of ‘healthy lifestyle’ choices.
As schools prepare to return to in-person teaching across the UK, experts believe social distancing and potential changes or disruption to sports and play activities could have consequences on the ‘physical and mental health and wellbeing’ of young people.
There are also concerns that, as well as experiencing pandemic-related stress and anxiety, children could get ‘out of the habit’ of physical exercise due to more sedentary lifestyles.
Dr Kelly Mackintosh, a sport and exercise scientist, said: “This project will substantially advance our understanding of the impact COVID-19 has had on children and young people and help us to provide guidance on what strategies are needed – and where – to minimise these impacts, both now and in the longer-term.”
The research for the project involves a ‘physical activity, health and wellbeing survey’ and a sub-sample of 800 children wearing activity monitoring devices on their wrists.
Participants have been recruited across all Schools in Wales, according to the University, through a partnership between Welsh higher education institutes and Sport Wales.
“We want to determine the current levels of children’s activity and wellbeing and then track whether these change as we progress through the various phases of the pandemic,” explained Dr Mackintosh.
“This information will help us determine the immediate and long-term impact the pandemic and associated restrictions have had.
“We really want to use the results to inform strategies to enhance children and young people’s health and wellbeing surrounding wider COVID-19 issues.
“Given that physical inactivity was already recognised as a major public health challenge of the 21st century prior to coronavirus, the scale of this issue and its consequences cannot be overstated.
“Increasing understanding and awareness of the importance of physical activity and mental health, and their interaction, is imperative.”
The group’s findings will be shared online through blogs, infographics and podcasts.