Research shows that only 20 percent of Dutch youth reaches the national physical activity thresholds during the Covid-19 pandemic. In comparison, 64 percent of the Dutch youth met the activity guidelines before the pandemic. In addition, 1 in 5 children states that they have gained weight during the Covid-19 crisis. Similarly, research shows that more than half of the Dutch youth has decreased in mental well-being compared to before the crisis. Communication and behavioural scientist, Dr. Thabo van Woudenberg is not surprised by these figures. In earlier research, he showed that physical activity and mental well-being in youth are associated and reinforce one other. Therefore, he hopes that by using creative solutions, young people can continue to be active and happy throughout the lockdown measures.
Van Woudenbergs' study is part of the Movez Lab. In one of the studies, a large group of young people between the ages of 8 and 17 was followed for three years. The participants were questioned for several weeks about their daily feelings of happiness. Also, they wore an activity tracker to measure the number of steps taken per hour during the study.
A positive effect of the number of steps on the feeling of happiness
The study results showed a clear association between the number of steps and the feeling of happiness per day. Young people who were generally more active reported more happiness than those who were generally less active. However, sudden increases in exercise for one day only had a limited effect on the participant's happiness. In addition, the study shows that there is a reciprocal relationship between physical activity and happiness. When young people moved more, they were happier the next hour. At the same time, young people who reported to be happier were likely to be more physically active in the next hour. 'When young people are physically active, they end up in a vicious upward circle in which physical activity and happiness reinforce one other,' says van Woudenberg.
Importance of movement during lockdown
Although the lockdown and homeschooling make it more challenging to continue to be physically active, van Woudenberg does want to encourage youth to remain active and thus remain mentally healthy. “Young people often come up with the best ideas and solutions themselves. My tip to young people is to challenge each other, inspire each other and above all, help each other to enjoy sport and exercise within the bounds of the rules and guidelines!”
Read the results of the study.
At https://jeugdfondssportencultuur.nl/ are tips and opportunities for financial support for parents to get their children to exercise more.