Kids' fitness remains below pre-pandemic levels
Slovenian children have become slightly fitter this year but the latest nation-wide fitness test in schools has shown that girls are still scoring 8% lower and boys 4% lower in their overall physical fitness than before the Covid pandemic.
Preliminary findings after 60% of the data has been processed show that the consequences of the Covid-19 measures are still taking a toll on children's physical development and motor skills, Gregor Starc, head of the national fitness surveillance programme at the Ljubljana Faculty of Sports, said on 6 June.
Similarly to the year before, there has been some improvement, but overall the upwards trend has slowed down, which Starc said indicates that "we have reached a plateau because the system has not given children a single incentive during this time."
Lack of action blamed
Since 2020 four generations of schoolchildren have finished primary and high school with decision-makers not adopting a single measure to boost children's physical activity and fitness, he said.
The tests have revealed that physical fitness has declined in 60% of children compared to pre-pandemic results.
This is also reflected in other areas of children's school and everyday life, Starc said, as they have more learning difficulties, are more stressed, have lower self-esteem, and do not feel good overall.
He singled out first graders, who usually improve on physical fitness during their first couple of years in school, but this time that was not the case.
Negative impact huge, despite less obesity
Meanwhile, obesity in Slovenian children has dropped back to pre-pandemic levels, with experts saying that the decline in physical fitness has significantly more negative effects on children's development than obesity itself.
Starc is also worried about an increasing number of children trying to regulate their weight by eating less rather than exercising more.
The key question is how to get the children "back on track before they leave the education system," he said, proposing one period of sports a day be introduced at schools, as opposed to three PE periods a week.
In the first five grades of primary school class teachers should be working together with a PE teacher to ensure a higher quality of PE classes in smaller groups.
Paediatrician Anita Jagrič Friškovec highlighted the many health problems that can stem from lack of physical activity.
She said children with impaired locomotory skills will grow into adults with low productivity, which will in turn result in a high rate of sick leaves.
Doctors are already seeing an growing number of children with bad posture and back pain, which could easily be prevented with more physical activity and increased muscle strength.