The head of the Sports Management studies at the Aspira, Luka Androja, participated with a group of authors in a large scientific study that was conducted at the Institute of Public Health.
As much as a third of primary school children in the Split-Dalmatia County are overweight and obese, and the situation worsened further during the COVID-19 pandemic, research reveals. The results of the research, published on December 22, 2023, included more than 100 thousand children in the period from 2012 to 2022.
Analyzing the data collected during the examination of the children at the time of enrollment in the first grade and in the fifth and eighth grades, the researchers determined that 30% of the children were overweight and obese. During the pandemic, students’ body mass index increased, with the exception of eighth-grade girls. An alarming 93% of freshmen were physically inactive during the pandemic.
– Better cooperation between the sports and health sectors is needed, and it is important to include extracurricular sports activities in the school system. In addition, we believe that it is necessary to direct more resources towards school sports and to encourage children to be physically active in order to prevent weight gain.
The research also highlights possible causes of gender differences, with an emphasis on fifth-grade boys replacing physical activity with more screen time and playing video games, while girls develop body image perceptions between ages 9 and 12.
The authors conclude that the World Health Organization’s fears of an increase in childhood obesity during the COVID 19 pandemic are justified and call for the encouragement of healthy lifestyle habits among children. They advise parents to lead by example and recommend strategies to prevent obesity, including a balanced diet and regular physical activity.