Physical activities

Shift to more unstructured physical activities may be a pandemic legacy, researchers say

Curious to find out what the cancellation of swimming lessons, dance lessons and team sports has done to family activity levels, researchers from Western University’s Child Health and Physical Activity Lab set out to find out. how the pandemic has changed the way we move.
Monika Szpunar is a researcher at Western University’s Child Health and Physical Activity Lab. (Provided by Monika Szpunar)

“As COVID has spread and become a global pandemic in March 2020, we have wondered what this means for children’s physical activity as children use sports, indoor facilities, arenas and parks to be active, and all these things are closed,” Monika Szpunar said. , a research with the lab.

Would parents turn to hiking or other outdoor activities to stay active, or get out the screens, the researchers wondered?

“Screen time has increased exponentially,” Szpunar said. “Many parents said they kind of gave up control of screen time because it was the only thing for their child to do, especially during the deep, deep, dark winter 2020 shutdowns. and 2021.”

The researchers interviewed children and parents about their experience during the pandemic, and most children said they really missed their friends and coaches, as well as tournaments when they were away. Parents also missed organized sports because they provide a chance to socialize with others, they told the researchers.

“Staggered weekly hours”

“They often mentioned going out instead of what they used to, especially for families who didn’t have outdoor space. For example, people living in apartments or condos, they were going to different parks or driving further to get somewhere to go outside.”

With pandemic restrictions largely lifted, families have started to return to organized sports, but they have also rethought the time they spend in it, they told the researchers.

With structured activities closed, families have found different ways to spend time together and hang out. (Radio-Canada News)

“A lot of people said they had completely changed their weekly schedules. They realized how long it took them to get to hockey camp or sports camp after work, pick up the kid, or hang out in those facilities,” Szupar said.

“Whereas now they can just pack up their bike and go for a long bike ride and get the same benefits of being active. We’ve noticed that in parents and children, activities have gone from structured to unstructured.”

The first results are based on a study in which families were interviewed. The researchers are also combing through a more in-depth study of 1,300 parents in Ontario and their activity habits.