The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in many changes to how society works, lives and plays as successive lockdowns placed restrictions on how we socialised; how many people we were allowed to see and how far we could travel.
One of the biggest challenges especially for children and young adults came with the closure of schools, colleges, nurseries and outdoor playgrounds with, in some instances local authorities even chaining up and restricting access to outdoor playground equipment and exercise equipment too.
Children’s Mental and Physical Health Affected
Studies are underway to gauge the effect of the pandemic on children who have been unable to play outdoors with friends as they normally would, with an emphasis on how children and young people have had to adapt and learn newer methods of play.
There is no doubt that the pandemic has had an enormous effect on the mental health of children and adults alike particularly in households with no outside space and in homes where children were suddenly forced to spend more time with parents who were perhaps working from home or were furloughed. Research has shown that childhood anxiety has increased due to enforced change in circumstances, not being able to see friends or go to school and through having to deal with parents’ worries as well.
We are seeing evidence of the increasing toll of mental and physical health conditions needing to be treated as a result of the lack of exercise, for children and adults. The closure of sports facilities has shown to be a major factor in increased anxiety and depression and this is largely attributed to the disruption in social cohesion amongst sports teams as well as amongst school groups. The closure of gyms, parks and outdoor play equipment areas has meant the reduction in physical activity was matched by an increase in virtual games and social media usage. In other words; the perfect storm for weight gain, loss of fitness and disrupted sleep patterns.
How Outdoor Exercise and Play Benefits Children
Children learn how to socialise and how to correctly conduct relationships when they interact with their friends and peers and the worry is that many very young children are unable to form relationships with friends or make new friendships.
Indoor and online exercise programmes have played a part in raising morale during the pandemic but cannot replace the vital benefits that social interaction brings through play and exercise outdoors in the fresh air. As life starts to get back to normal there could be a renewed appreciation for our outdoor spaces and the outdoor play equipment we once took for granted.