Despite being locked inside for a lot of the last two years, a study from Deakin University has found that Australian adults did more physical activity than they did before the pandemic. Which does beg the question: just how little physical activity were we doing in pre-lockdown times?
While adult Aussies were using their work-from-home days and hours freed up from not having to commute to do more exercise the same cannot be said for the nation’s children and teenagers.
Teenage boys especially saw a sharp decline in the amount of exercise they were doing during the lockdown as opposed to during out-and-about-and-not-even-thinking-about-the-possibility-of-a-global-pandemic times.
The two-year study was called Our Life and was conducted by the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition – which is a real institute at Deakin, even though it sounds like the sort of place that would be made up by Sanitarium in order to help sell Wheatbix.
The study tracked the screen habits and physical activity behaviour of 2,800 Aussies between the ages of 5 and 75 during the lockdowns. While adults increased their exercise levels by 26%, younger folks, and teenage boys especially, took a bit of a dive.
Teenage boys were 88 per cent less likely than before the pandemic to meet the hour of daily exercise that is the national recommended amount. With no school, no organised sport and no going outside in general that number plummeted for teenage boys.
The lockdowns didn’t hit teenage girls as hard as the study found they picked up home-based yoga and other exercise.
Anybody who has ever been a teenager or met a teenager knows how hard it is to get them to move at the best of time but at the height of the pandemic it proved even harder.
Lead researcher at the Institute, Dr. Lauren Arundell, told the Sydney Morning Herald that exercise for young people should be a focus coming out of the pandemic. “We need to ensure physical activity is promoted in schools and communities, to get Australian children and teenage boys active and moving again.”
The problem wasn’t just that exercise levels were down, screen consumption was way up, with children spending an extra 27 hours a week staring at some kind of screen. That might sound bad, but remember, those TikToks are not going to watch themselves.