Effects of pandemic on Hong Kong children’s movement behaviors

The global pandemic has impacted many people’s lives across the world. To reduce the risk of infection, stringent social distancing measures have been enforced in many cities. In Hong Kong, in-person schooling was suspended or limited for long periods of time. Children were strongly recommended to remain at home. However, most home environments in Hong Kong were small and not facilitative of indoor physical activity. Distance learning also increased children’s screen time. To this end, the team at The Chinese University of Hong Kong conducted a study to examine changes in movement behaviors of children attending local kindergartens.

In this study, we compared accelerometer-measured movement behaviors (sleep, sedentary, light physical activity, and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity) of preschool-aged children before and during the COVID-19 outbreak. Due to challenges in data collection during the pandemic, data from a modest sample of 25 children were included in the final analyses. Results of compositional data analyses suggested that during the pandemic, young children spent relatively more time sleeping (8%) and in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (16%). By contrast, less time was spent in sedentary behaviors (9%), and no changes were observed for light physical activity. In terms of adherence to World Health Organization’s guidelines for young children, no differences between the two time points were observed. These preliminary results suggest that children’s movement behaviors were not negatively affected by the pandemic. In fact, the contrary was observed! At the moment, we have limited evidence to suggest why this might be the case; further investigation will be needed.

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