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Sleep problems, behavior and poor emotional management: the consequences of childhood sedentary lifestyle during the pandemic


Mental health has therefore been the aspect that has been harmed the most by confinement (Shutterstock)

We have been in a pandemic for almost a year. Throughout the last few months the changes have been numerous that have been produced in the legislation with the purpose of trying to reduce the upward trend of infections and deaths from coronavirus.

Despite the harshness of these rules, lockdowns, social isolation and teleworking proved to be effective measures to prevent the spread of the disease. However, and without obviating the need to assume them so that the situation improves, its consequences should not be ignored. Within the physical and sports fields, the closure of sports centers, restrictions to exercise in groups, the limitation of physical activity in school recess, social distance in physical education classes or the closure of public parks have been or are some of the resolutions decreed from the beginning.

Due to these limitations, there has been an unprecedented sporting phenomenon, What physical activity at home. Gyms, for example, launched apps with personalized training in order to continue offering services to their clients, and the hashtag #YoMeMuevoEnCasa circulated on social networks as an initiative of different personal trainers.

The fact of not being able to practice sports with friends, the suspension of sports competitions or the closure of public parks lead to negative mental consequences (REUTERS)
The fact of not being able to practice sports with friends, the suspension of sports competitions or the closure of public parks lead to negative mental consequences (REUTERS)

Be still sick

The negative consequences of physical inactivity were not long in coming. Various research groups from different universities conducted studies in the last year trying to obtain new information regarding physical inactivity caused by confinement and restrictions, especially in the child and youth population.

These problems related to lack of physical activity they affected the physical and psychological realm. In relation to the first of them, we can highlight cardiovascular and obesity problems, while, related to the seconds, it stands out above the rest the depression, aggravating this situation in women.

Mental health has therefore been the aspect that was harmed the most by confinement. In a study involving 595 confined people An inverse relationship was observed between the increase in depressive symptoms and weekly physical activity levels.

Children who invested less time in physical exercise and made more use of screens had a greater number of negative reactions (Shutterstock)
Children who invested less time in physical exercise and made more use of screens had a greater number of negative reactions (Shutterstock)

In the particular case of children and adolescents, problems related to symptoms of post-traumatic stress, aggressiveness, rebellion, obesity, emotional and behavioral regulation were detected, causing anger, crying, fear, eating disorders and some hyperactivity.

The fact of Not being able to play sports with your friends, the suspension of sports competitions or the closure of public parks carry negative mental consequences. In this sense, from the school environment online platforms are being used that offer the opportunity to see their colleagues, not using these platforms only for academic purposes, but also as resource to continue maintaining social relationships.

Other recent study in which 113 individuals (51.8% boys and 48.2% girls) between 3 and 12 years participated, warned that 69.6% of parents reported that, during confinement, their children presented negative emotional reactions, 31.3% sleep problems and 24.1% conduct problems.

Children who spent less time in physical exercise and made more use of screens presented a greater number of negative reactions. The data therefore suggest that engaging in regular physical exercise and limiting daily screen use can benefit children’s mental health in isolation situations.

On a personal level, enjoyment is a critical factor, so finding creative ways to engage in physical activity that children / teens enjoy is important (Shutterstock)
On a personal level, enjoyment is a critical factor, so finding creative ways to engage in physical activity that children / teens enjoy is important (Shutterstock)

Ideas to activate

They proposed different measures on various levels, having as protagonists local governments, practice environments in cities, family and friends.

Some local governments restricted vehicle traffic to promote greater participation in physical activity, ensuring social distancing in urban settings. Certain parks were opened with very marked indications of where children should move to promote physical activity maintaining social distancing abroad.

The participation of the educational centers, through the physical education area, provided physical activity videos with challenges or challenges. All of it, in pursuit of improving the immune system through cardiovascular exercise, strength-endurance and flexibility adapted to the motor competence of the participants.

Objects found around the house can be used to create circuits of activity, for example, climbing stairs, jumping objects, or doing self-loading exercises (with own body weight). During time outdoors promote family walks (trekking), geocaching (activity of hiding and finding “treasures” anywhere, with the help of a GPS), mountain biking, sports orientation (with compass and map). In the social sphere, initiatives could include creating a community Facebook / WhatsApp / email group, family or friends To participate in physical activity challenges –For example, tracking the steps taken during a day / a week / a month.

Teens can use fitness apps or fitness challenges online with their friends, and parents should always encourage physical activity to your children highlighting the benefits it has.

"These negative effects can be diminished through the implementation of various initiatives related to physical activity and that involve not only families and the school, but also local and regional governments" (Shutterstock)
“These negative effects can be diminished through the implementation of various initiatives related to physical activity and that involve not only families and the school, but also local and regional governments” (Shutterstock)

Personally, enjoyment is a critical factor, hence Finding creative ways to participate in physical activity that children and teens enjoy is important. This holistic process could be achieved through the performance of viral dances (TikTok), virtually see physically active coaches or teachers of physical education or games. As long as these activities are done as a family, they will be more motivating.

“In short -explains Alejandro Prieto Ayuso, professor at the University of Castilla-La Mancha, who is the promoter of this initiative to activate the youngest- It is a fact that the levels of sedentary lifestyle have increased during confinement and that this has caused various problems throughout the population, including children and adolescents, mainly related to the physical (basic physical abilities, obesity, hypertension, etc.) and psychosocial or emotional (self-esteem, physical self-concept, depression, among others.) ”.

“Those of us who work with children and young people know the devastating effects of home confinement -Complete your colleague Sixto González Víllora from the same university. Nevertheless, These negative effects can be diminished through the implementation of various initiatives related to physical activity. and that involve not only families and the school, but also local and regional governments ”.

What’s more, individual responsibility, faithfully and honestly complying with the advice given by the health workers to prevent COVID-19 is a fundamental fact that shows empathy and commitment to others, which it’s facilitate safe contexts in which children can play on the streets and in parks, something vital for their development and overall health.

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