New Active Lives data shows devastating impact of COVID-19 on children's activity levels

New Active Lives data shows devastating impact of COVID-19 on children's activity levels

Posted: Tue, 19 Jan 2021 08:58

New Active Lives data shows devastating impact of COVID-19 on children's activity levels

The new Active Lives data is in, and there is deep cause for concern. Josh Lenthall takes a look at the crisis unfolding behind the numbers, and sets out our plans to help every child in Oxfordshire achieve 60 active minutes, every day:

The Active Lives: Children & Young People survey results for the 2019-2020 academic year have been released, and the impact of COVID-19 on the physical activity levels of our younger generations is a major cause for concern.

To use a sporting cliché, it was very much a year of two halves. We saw a relatively normal start to the academic year and then COVID-19 hit, wreaking havoc on the health and wellbeing of our children from March 2020 onwards.

The headlines

National figures suggest that a staggering 55%, or 4 million children, are not currently meeting Chief Medical Officer guidelines of 60 active minutes a day. For Oxfordshire, this equates to 46,750 children.

However, during the height of the pandemic, live figures were telling us that only 19% of children & young people were meeting CMO guidelines. That's close to 70,000 children in Oxfordshire.

With much of community sport on hiatus, as well as parents trying to balance the challenges of life in a pandemic with homeschooling it's reasonable to assume that the picture right now is sadly towards the higher end of those figures. In either case, there are an enormous number of children in our county who are not enjoying the benefits of improved physical and mental wellbeing that being active can bring. This represents both a crisis now, and a ticking timebomb for the future.

We are all in the same storm. But some of us are in different boats

More concerning still is the widening inequality between our young people. Not every child has been affected equally by the pandemic, with children from ethnically diverse backgrounds seeing the most profound drop in activity, and those from the most disadvantaged households also seeing the biggest declines.

If we are to halt this grossly unfair trend, then we must take a universal proportionalism approach where the future we are looking to create is far better and far fairer than what we left behind in March 2020 as we entered lockdown.

The green shoots

Despite these worrying trends, there is hope and plenty to build on for the future:

  • Walking for travel rose by 2.6%, with walking for leisure rising by 22%. Cycling for travel rose by 5.6% and cycling for leisure grew by 18.4%.
  • Getting active at home and the use of online platforms and classes rose significantly for children & young people. Is this a trend to be further developed? Perhaps being able to take part at home breaks down many of the barriers to participation that confidence or limited access to facilities can create.
  • Programmes such as Ready Set Go and FAST have done an incredible job reaching families during lockdown
  • StreetTag saw thousands of residents taking to the streets to walk and enjoy their surroundings, covering over 100 million steps in the process

What's next?

Our Active 60 campaign is dedicated to creating a county where every child can achieve 60 active minutes, every day. This campaign sees us working through partners on innovative approaches to reaching those most in need, running conferences, bringing together key stakeholders and providing advice and expertise to schools across the county.

Join our Active 60 campaign and help give Oxfordshire's youngest generations the active start in life that they deserve.

Tags: Active Lives, Active Schools