Beyond COVID, pandemic took toll on S.C. kids’ health
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - A new study shows the physical health of South Carolina children fell behind during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s according to results from the South Carolina FitnessGram – an annual physical fitness test that most students in South Carolina take.
Doctors and researchers point to a combination of causes, like kids missing out on physical education classes when schools went virtual during the pandemic, activities like sports being put on pause and people just staying home more and being more sedentary.
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“The fact that this was reflected in reductions in fitness I think really points to how much their physical activity was probably reduced because it probably takes a substantial change in physical activity to reduce a kid’s fitness,” said Dr. Russell Pate of the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health.
According to the FitnessGram results, two out of five students across the state are now considered overweight or obese.
Data shows heart and lung health declined by 9%, and more than half of students don’t meet the national standards for cardiorespiratory fitness.
Children living in poverty also scored worse on every measure.
Pediatrician Dr. Deborah Greenhouse says these results match what she’s seen in her office every day since the pandemic.
“More kids dealing with problems with weight gain, more kids dealing with problems of not having access to healthy foods, and kids in general just not being as active as they were before, not getting as much exercise,” she said.
To turn this trend around, Greenhouse says the state and schools will have to improve kids’ access to physical activity through P.E. classes, sports and other activities, as well as access to healthy foods.
She says a great place to start is a bill filed at the State House that would provide free school meals to every student in South Carolina.
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