By Dave Johnson, MEd
The COVID-19 pandemic has been, and continues to be, a struggle on virtually everyone across the globe. Economies are tanking, people are losing jobs, and prolonged isolation is driving record cases of depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. Most attention during the pandemic has been on adults; after all, they are (generally speaking) more at risk of complications from this virus than children and, for the most part, have been the ones driving infections.
The start of the public school academic year, however, is right around the corner and many school districts are struggling with the learning environment and the decision whether or not to physically welcome students back in their buildings. While evidence suggests that children are less likely to have severe complications, we have seen the number of children contracting COVID-19 dramatically increase since schools and camps started re-opening. A recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that, in the last few weeks of July, 97,000 new cases of COVID-19 in children. As more states begin to re-open their schools, it’s anticipated that the number of cases will skyrocket. Online education is an option but this article is about being at home.
Why does this matter to personal trainers? Odds are, if numbers continue to climb, schools will close again. If schools close again, that means that most interscholastic athletic teams will also stop playing and practicing and children will not be physically active during physical education class. Simply put, this means that most children will not have any guided physical activity in their lives. This is a major public health concern! As a baseline, during normal times, fewer than 25% of children meet the recommended physical activity guidelines for their age. Even those children who are involved in sports fall victim to this. Have you ever thought about how much time is spent during practice simply standing around?
If you’ve read my previous blog post (The Hidden Benefits of Physical Activity in Youth), you’re already familiar with some of the lesser known benefits of physical activity in children. From a COVID-centric perspective, though, there are three major benefits to focus on:
Regular exercise boosts the immune system – Research has consistently shown that regular, moderate-intensity exercise has immune-boosting benefits that may help children and adults to fight off infections, including COVID-19.
Regular exercise may prevent weight gain – Energy balance and how it applies to body composition is well-known among personal trainers, but consider that kids are eating more fast-food than ever. That, coupled with childhood obesity rates being what they are, means this is a target demographic that desperately needs our help!
Regular exercise will reduce stress and anxiety – We know adults are stressed but kids are, too! One of the most important components of in-person schooling is the enhanced social dynamic it provides or a work online learning balance. Simply being around their peers is incredibly beneficial for most children and, since March, many have been isolated and have not had the opportunity to engage in regular age-appropriate conversation with friends.
This all may seem bleak but there is good news: we can help! There are strategies that personal trainers can utilize to help families stay active together and promote a healthy lifestyle for both their children and themselves. Join me in our upcoming BlogCast to learn more about these strategies and how you can help this unique demographic survive and thrive during this pandemic.
Please register for Keeping Kids Active When Schools are Closed on Aug 19, 2020 3:00 PM EDT.
Want more specific ideas to excel with our youth and your children? Check out our Youth Fitness Foundations programs and others for direction to expand this market as a Personal Trainer and as a parent. Check these out!