Geography & Environment Publications
Article number: 1459
BMC Public Health
URL with Digital Object Identifier
COVID-19 has drastically changed the everyday lives of children, including limiting interactions with peers, loss of regularly organized activities, and closure of schools and recreational facilities. While COVID-19 protocols are in place to reduce viral transmission, they have affected children’s access to physical activity opportunities. The purpose of this study was to understand how COVID-19 has affected children’s engagement in physical activity and to identify strategies that can support children’s return to physical activity programming in public places.
Parents of past participants in the Grade 5 ACT-i-Pass Program in London, Ontario, Canada were invited to participate in a semi-structured interview online (in November and December 2020) via Microsoft Teams. The script was comprised of questions about their child’s physical activity levels (before, current, and anticipated following COVID-19), lifestyle changes due to COVID-19, and what service providers can do to assist children’s return to public programming. Interviews were transcribed in Microsoft Teams, reviewed by a member of the research team, and analyzed in NVivo 12 using thematic analysis.
Twenty-seven parents participated in an interview. Four themes and two subthemes were identified during analysis: (1) modifications to everyday life (a. activity options available and b. altered social environment), (2) safety in public spaces, (3) accessibility of activities, and (4) utilizing outdoor spaces.
COVID-19 protocols have decreased children’s physical activity levels due to the loss of their regular activities, recreational spaces, and peer support. Implementing facility and activity-specific health protocols, providing outdoor activity options, and offering a variety of activity types, times, and locations are three strategies recommended by parents to help facilitate their children’s return to public recreational places. Due to the negative consequences of physical inactivity on children’s health and well-being, service providers need to implement programming and safety protocols that support children’s engagement in physical activity throughout the remainder of, and the years following, the COVID-19 pandemic.
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