Corona numbers continue to rise exponentially. Sports especially children and young people also suffer from this. Because lack of exercise is exacerbated by lockdown and contact restrictions. How do we treat? SWR Sport spoke to Tübingen sports scientist Professor Ansgar Thiel.
Ansgar Thiel is an athletic person. A professor of sports sciences at the University of Tübingen cuts his body for a 30-minute early-morning workout. Then take a business trip to the institute on foot. Do another 30 minutes of exercise. A workload that he is happy to recommend to others: “I advise everyone to exercise every day. Not necessarily in the morning, but also in the evening.”
The sedentary lifestyle pandemic has intensified during Corona
Movement and physical activity are very close to the Tübingen researcher’s heart. Especially now, especially in the time of the never-ending Corona pandemic. Of the devastating long-term harm, Thiel warns, “As the Corona period increases, it is clear that the long-term lack of the exercise epidemic is exacerbating.” “It could get worse if there are new restrictions or even closures.”
Children and youth are particularly at risk
The danger is especially true for young people in society. For years, lack of exercise became more and more noticeable and problematic for them. And now Corona: “During the first lockdowns, we saw that children and young people are a very tense group,” says Professor Thiel, “particularly psychologically and socially. A lot of things that are important to this age group have lost everything we are able to meet others.”
You can now see that “depressive moods and depressive disorders have increased in children and adolescents.” But not only that, physical well-being has also suffered during the prolonged phase of the Corona crisis. Fitness in particular: “Research has shown that there is a significant increase in weight on average. Motor skills have decreased, as well as strength and endurance,” says Thiel.
Physical development is important for personality development
This can subsequently have severe consequences for children and young adults. Because, according to the sports scientist, “motor development is a very important point in personal development. I need to exercise regularly in order to be able to develop holistically, so that the body also develops.” This means that a lack of exercise over an extended period of time has very negative long-term health consequences, especially for children and young adults.”
Are there restrictions on movement again?
In light of the rapid increase in the numbers of corona, Professor Ansgar Thiel now fears to prevent contact with opportunities to exercise again, as was the case during the first lockdown. Then it could be that “children and young adults completely lose touch with the movement”. Unusual physical education classes, no shows from sports clubs, closed fitness studios – a terrifying vision of a Tübingen researcher.
Sedentary lifestyle culture
In addition, sports and games at home on the street have been in decline for many years. Empty lanes, empty football fields. Professor Thiel talks about “a culture of sedentary lifestyle, a culture of sitting, as in the digital world”. Not just since Corona, there has been a trend that children are playing less and more on the street. “There’s more and more parental protection. Games take place less outdoors,” admitted Till, “you want to prevent anything from happening to the kids. Don’t let them climb trees anymore, don’t let them go to the playground anymore without supervision, they should They play perfectly at home. But there is much less space to move around than outside on the street.”
The new digital living environment
In addition to the new digital living environment: “Electronic games, playing games on a cell phone, and communicating with others on a cell phone. This means that direct contact with others, including contact with movement, is no longer necessary as it was before. And this It also reduces the motivation of others to exercise together,” Professor Ansgar Thiel deplores the changing living environment for children and young people in Germany.
What can you do as a father?
The question arises: what can parents do about it? “It is very important for parents to include opportunities in the daily and weekly schedule where you can play sports with the kids. And to go out, go for a walk, and you can play ball even in winter. You also have to keep the kids involved all the time. Make them go out.” Of course, especially in the phases of lockdown, it is essential for children and young people to talk to each other through digital media. But: As a parent, you also have to take breaks. For children to meet and play outside in the fresh air. Parents are a critical motivating factor when it comes to physical activity.
Schools are also opposing
In these difficult times of lack of exercise, Professor Ansgar Till is also challenging institutions such as schools. “Schools should ensure the education of the body and the knowledge of health and exercise and their importance.” Physical education for only two hours a week is unable to compensate for the lack of exercise: “In physical education, we must learn how to exercise in a healthy way. How movements work, how you can train them.” The theme of movement should also be applied more forcefully in schools: “It cannot be,” says Professor Thiel, “no running on the school premises or outside on the playground.” One must also, as the sports world creatively suggests, “design lessons in an impactful way.”
Moving lessons as an alternative
What does it mean? “For example, you can also learn foreign languages outdoors. While walking, mark things with the right words.” Everything has a positive effect on cognitive abilities and will also have a long-term effect.
That’s why he also makes politics responsible: “Currently, politics gives very little importance to exercise as a major factor in health promotion.” According to Professor Ansgar Thiel, “Sport is more important than ever, especially in times of Corona. You should not make the mistake of pushing sport to the sidelines during lockdown.” Especially not for children and young adults.