There was no school, no gym, and sports at a sports club were also not possible. And if you didn’t have a garden, you couldn’t play outside during the lockdown. The advice was to stay indoors. One in three children has started eating more unhealthy snacks, according to a study by the UMC Maastricht.
Sample across the country
The research was done among about 200 children, says pediatrician Anita Vreugdenhil. It is not a representative survey, but the sample was conducted among children from all over the country. “We also see that our research has reached both children with a healthy weight and children who are overweight,” Vreugdenhil says.
The children in the study are of various ages, come from families with parents who are together, but divorced parents are also represented. “In that sense, with almost 200 children, we can already speak of a good reflection of the Dutch children”, says Vreugdenhil. “We do see that relatively more highly educated parents have completed the questionnaire.”
Economic crisis leads to an unhealthy lifestyle
It is hoped that the bad habits from during the lockdown will disappear when the corona period is behind us, but that is not certain. Research shows that an economic crisis results in an unhealthy lifestyle in children, especially vulnerable groups, Vreugdenhil says.
In fact, Vreugdenhil warns against an unhealthy generation due to the corona period. Because an unhealthy lifestyle as a child can lead to obesity and the first phase of cardiovascular disease. Vreugdenhil: “That generation is in turn more susceptible to infections such as Covid-19. People with obesity are hit harder by the virus.”
Difference is getting bigger
What is also striking is that the difference between children in this area seems to be getting bigger due to corona. “You can see that about one in five children put on weight, but of the overweight children this is even about two in five children. But we also see that there are children who have started to eat healthier and exercise more. . “
Jorien Slot, researcher at the Mulier Institute for sports research, endorses the tremors of Vreugdenhil and her colleagues. Her most important conclusion: “If the transport to school stops moving, some children don’t fill it up with playing outside. Active children have started playing outside more. The gap has widened.”
Vreugdenhil hopes by now sharing these research results that everyone is aware of the consequences of the corona measures. A second period without exercise, with unhealthy food and more weight, has major consequences, she says. She hopes to use this study to draw the attention of children, parents, but also schools and governments to the consequences of the measures on the lifestyle of children. “Children seem less susceptible to the virus itself, but all the more to the consequences of the measures.”
The team of researchers also looks for possible opportunities for improvement. They see, for example, that a large group of children are not yet using online options such as exercise challenges, online gym lessons, but also online tutorials for healthy recipes. Children who do use it say it helps. That is an opportunity that can be seized. “
But the responsibility also lies with the parents, because they often determine what is in the lunch box to school. “We hope that parents are also extra alert about what they give in snacks and drinks.”
Vreugdenhil and her colleagues are conducting further research into the scope and impact. “We investigate which children show the most negative effects, and which group of children actually started living healthier during the first period of the virus. We also investigate which children return to healthier habits after the summer holidays, and with whom and why. this is actually very difficult to adjust again. “