In Scotland, there is clear intention to improve physical activity opportunities and physical activity policy. However, to improve physical activity outcomes, national monitoring must be enhanced to ensure that decision-making in policy and practice is properly informed.
The full effect of the pandemic on the physical activity and health of children and adolescents in Scotland is not yet clear, but there are concerning signs of increased screen time and increased childhood obesity.
The findings for Scotland have been published in the Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness.
The study shows some clear disparities between the most and least deprived areas of Scotland. Just over half (53%) of children in the most deprived areas were found not to be engaging in sport, compared with 18% in the least deprived, while just 4% in the most deprived areas, compared with the least deprived, had been on outdoor excursions in the previous 12 months. Half in the most deprived areas perceived their communities as safe, compared with 72% in the least deprived.
The study concludes: “Despite a decade of favourable policy, (the) physical activity and health of children and youth has not improved, and marked socioeconomic inequalities persist in Scotland. There is a clear need for greater monitoring of physical activity and health, and improved policy implementation and evaluation, particularly as many indicators and related inequalities may have worsened following the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Data were incomplete in some categories, including diet, obesity, and physical fitness.
The overall AHKGA report finds that events other than COVID-19 reduced child and adolescent physical activity even further, including climate change (in around a third of countries), national economic crises (in half of the countries), and war or internal conflict in eight of the 57 countries.
The specific impact of the pandemic on Scotland will be analysed in the next Active Healthy Kids Scotland Report Card.