(Montreal) As we know, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted a host of aspects of society and some of these effects continue to be felt despite daily life having returned to normal. New data released by Statistics Canada reveals that young girls are slow to return to physical activities.
In the report entitled “Long-lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on physical activity and screen time among young Canadians”, we learn that just before the start of the health crisis, between January and March 2020 , 47.1% of girls aged 12 to 17 met recommendations of one hour of moderate to vigorous activity per day. This rate was as high as 54.3% among boys of the same age.
Then, with the imposition of health restrictions, these rates fell significantly between September and December 2020. Barely 34.8% of girls and 39.5% of boys had then maintained their level of physical activity at one hour per day.
However, while their male peers have since rediscovered their good habits, the young girls are slow to make up for lost time. For the period January 2021 to February 2022, more than half of boys (52.2%) said they moved at least 60 minutes daily compared to just 35% of girls.
The same phenomenon is also observed in the average duration of daily physical activity. At the start of 2020, it was 81.8 minutes for boys and 68.1 minutes for girls. These numbers then fell with the advent of measures to curb the spread of the SARS CoV-2 virus, but have since risen again among boys. In the case of adolescent girls, we still observe a shortfall with an average duration of effort of 55.5 minutes per day during the period from January 2021 to February 2022.
All these data analyzed in the report are taken from the “Canadian Community Health Survey”. Different cohorts of hundreds of young people were interviewed at each of the periods mentioned in order to find out their physical activity habits.
For assistant professor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine, Jean-Philippe Chaput, these findings are not surprising since experts knew well before the pandemic that the group most at risk of not moving enough is those teenage girls. Even more precisely, young girls from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds are even less active.
Without having a clear explanation, Professor Chaput evokes a well-stocked list of priorities during adolescence, where physical activity is relegated far away. “There are so many things that interest us like being with our friends, being on social networks,” describes the man who specializes in research on healthy lifestyle habits among young people.
He adds that this period filled with upheaval also marks a quest for autonomy, where the influence of parents is no longer the same over their children. Despite everything, the expert maintains that parental example remains an essential tool to get young people moving.
The Statistics Canada survey shows that many young people have transferred their active time to screen time. Such behavior can lead to a negative spiral, explains Jean-Philippe Chaput. More screen time leads to less effective sleep and therefore lower energy levels. As a result, we are less willing to move, we eat less well, we spend even more time in front of screens, we sleep less well, etc.
However, we can reverse this trend and create a positive spiral. Professor Chaput also recalls that “moving is the best pill for overall health, for mental health, physical health, quality of life”.
He recommends as a starting point to simply spend a little more time outdoors. “Just being outside increases the number of steps in a day. That’s movement, and that’s what we should aim for,” he summarizes.
No matter what method you choose, the important thing is to get moving. No need to join organized sports, walking, yoga and dancing are excellent, simple and fun ways to get moving.