Physical activities

Daily physical activities are less intensive than organized sports, study finds

In the spring of 2020, when football and sports clubs closed for several weeks due to the Corona pandemic, children and adolescents sought alternative physical activities.

According to a complementary study of more than 1,700 children and adolescents aged 4 to 17 years as part of the Motorik-Modul (MoMo) study conducted by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the University of Education from Karlsruhe (PHKA), the children were physically active about 36 minutes more each day, but also spent an hour more in front of screens and monitors. The results are reported in Scientific reports.

Surprisingly, boys and girls have sought a replacement for the canceled sports offerings, also those who had not been physically active before. “

Dr. Claudia Niessner, Scientist, Institute of Sports and Sports Science, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

The scientist from KIT’s Institute of Sports and Sports Sciences (IfSS) and her colleague Dr Doris Oriwol, from KIT and PHKA, are managing the project, the results of which are now published in Nature Research Scientific Reports. The closure of schools, sports facilities and playgrounds from mid-March to early May to contain the Corona pandemic was both bad luck and an opportunity for the ten researchers.

They had to suspend the field studies of their Motorik-Modul Study (MoMo) on the motor skills and physical activities of children and adolescents during confinement, but took the opportunity to organize online surveys.

“We reacted quickly and made good use of the lockdown phase. The comparison of the situations before and after the lockdown was only possible because we have long-term data, the only such database in the world,” Niessner explains. Among other things, the researchers found that the time spent in general physical activities and the time spent in front of screens and monitors increased.

“More time spent using the media does not necessarily mean less physical activity. In both areas there are U-shaped relationships with a healthy lifestyle,” says Dr Steffen Schmidt, lead author of the scientific publication produced as part of MoMo research. project.

Daily physical activities are less intensive than organized sports

“According to our survey, daily activity has increased. Yet it was just a snapshot of an extraordinarily hot spring, and quantity is not quality, ”says Prof. Alexander Woll, director of the IfSS and director of the MoMo study started in 2003. “Playing outdoors, cycling, gardening or doing housework does not have the same intensity as training and competing in organized sports. In addition, social aspects are lacking when clubs and schools are closed, ”explains the sports scientist.

“Before the lockdown, we had the highest level of organized sports ever. About 60% of children and adolescents in Germany are active in sports clubs. The long-term impact of the lack of sports in schools and clubs about motor skills or being overweight is not yet known, ”says Woll.

According to the study, closing sports clubs resulted in an average daily drop in sports of 28.5 minutes. “Digital offerings of physical activity have increased and will continue to increase, but there is a difference between physical activity in front of the screen or running through a green meadow,” says Woll.

In addition to their daily activities, children and adolescents spent about 18 minutes more per day in “unorganized sports”, such as playing football, basketball or badminton, or about 24 minutes instead of just seven minutes before the start of the day. confinement. Although the 60 minutes of physical activity per day recommended by the WHO was not met, the lockdown was found to promote physical activity, Woll says.

When it comes to activity behavior during the current winter lockdown, the sports scientist is more skeptical. He thinks it is positive that the schools are still open. But outdoor activities will likely decrease during the cold, gloomy season, he says.

The living environment plays an important role

“Our study shows that the living environment of children and adolescents plays a major role,” explains sports scientist Niessner. While physical activity was highest among children living in single-family homes in a small municipality, it was lowest among children and adolescents living in multi-story buildings in large cities. “Free movement spaces are disappearing in town planning. Countermeasures are urgently needed,” says Woll.

The MoMo study is a joint project of KIT and PHKA. Deputy Project Director Prof. Annette Worth, PHKA, explains:

When it comes to physical activity during Corona, school plays an important role. Teachers educate, help, give feedback, and motivate. This is especially important for children, where physical activities, games and sports play a minor role at home. “


Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Journal reference:

Schmidt, SCE et al. (2020) Physical activity and screen time of children and adolescents before and during COVID-19 lockdown in Germany: a natural experience. Scientific reports.