Kids feel weight of pandemic

Local | Maisy Mok 12 May 2021

Children have put on weight and their emotional health has been affected during the pandemic as they are exercising less, according to a Jockey Club survey.

The Fun to Move@JC project surveyed 825 parents of primary school students online in February, asking them to evaluate their children's physical and mental wellbeing at the time compared to October to explore the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It found that 63 percent of the respondents said their children gained weight during the suspension of face-to-face classes. Of these, 11 percent said the weight gain was three kilograms or more.

Project leader Amy Ha Sau-ching, an associate dean (research) at the Chinese University's faculty of education, said the weight gain could be due to natural body growth, such as an increase of bone and muscle mass.

"However, the weight increase could also be attributed to a reduced level of physical activity and eating more," Ha said.

The project, funded by the club and cocreated by the university, aims to enhance primary students' physical activity levels.

Around 28 percent said their children are eating more and about half said their children exercise less.

Of the latter, 24 percent said their children's time spent on physical activity has been reduced by more than an hour.

"This is alarming," Ha said. "It shows that some children might have a habit of exercising, but due to the pandemic, they have to stay home more regularly, so they choose to stay indoors in a safe space and reduce physical activity."

Six out of 10 respondents said their children had spent more time on electronic devices, with 43 percent saying screen time had increased by more than an hour.

Ha said children will continue to use tablets for a long time as they have to study online, but that prolonged screen time could affect one's eyesight.

Around 10 percent said their children's physical health had deteriorated and 28 percent said mental and emotional wellbeing had worsened as well.

Ha said the deterioration of physical and mental health could be related to reduced levels of physical activity.

"Having a suitable amount of exercise during the pandemic is very important to students' mental and physical health."



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