The Importance of Physical Activity for the Development of Kids, Teens, and Young Adults During the Pandemic
As we gradually get out of the dark, lock-down days of the pandemic, let’s remember that during this period kids, teens, and young adults have had to invent new ways to socialize and get through their traditional physical development phase.
I’m a physical therapist who treats kids and teens. Unfortunately, since the pandemic began, I have seen an increase in young adults with posture problems, physical pain or discomfort, and difficulties in feeling comfortable with their bodies.
Some of the symptoms they have been experiencing are usually found in the older population, so I questioned my patients.
Not Enough Daily Physical Activity
First, during lock-down, kids and teens did not go to school and walk the average that they should every day. I suggested to each of them that they – whenever possible – take a walk around their block at least once a day. But I noticed that the motivation decreased over time.
While most children are now back to school and able to resume a more normal life with some daily physical activity, they need to re-learn how to move and not feel body awkwardness and discomfort.
Increased Socializing Through Technology
Teens need to socialize and enhance their social skills, but in this era of technology, a lot of socializing happens through computers and phones -- the same devices which became necessary tools to study or work while we were stuck at home.
Young people ended up spending way more time on technology than they should for the body’s well-being. It brought them all types of physical discomforts, such as chronic neck tightness, chronic headaches, back weakness, core weakness, and tightness of the hips and legs.
Some of them tried to adapt their workstation, chair, or support. Sometimes they couldn’t even sit at their desks anymore, as it was too painful.
With all of these discomforts, it gets easy to fall into a chronic pain and weakness pattern.
Getting A Healthy Body Back
Parents often ask me for advice on how to help their children get their healthy body back.
Well, I know that to motivate a teen is not always that easy!
I recommend communicating with your children. Encourage them to reduce the use of technology to make time for outdoor activities. Even just a quick walk outside every day, if possible, is beneficial.
I also suggest incorporating short and easy body positioning and stretching exercises into their daily routines (easy hip mobility and back postural exercises, for example).
Breathing exercises are particularly important. The diaphragmatic muscle, attached to the lower rib cage and mid back vertebrae, is the major muscle of respiration. I call it the “center key of the body.”
It is a large, dome-shaped muscle that contracts mostly involuntarily, but needs to be reactivated regularly to avoid upper breathing pattern, stress, and upper back tightness.
Muscle strengthening exercises are extremely helpful. They don’t need to be repetitive or overly complicated (otherwise nobody would be motivated to do them).
When sitting, they should be sure to regularly check their body position for better body awareness and make adjustments if needed.
But mostly, I recommend changing position (sitting, standing, walking, or even lying down), throughout the day.
Fun physical activities are important for body development, and also contribute to an improved mind-body connection. Any sport is helpful, but theatre, singing, art, or any activity that encourages the body to move will contribute.
As I said earlier, now that we are out of the lock-down situation, I hope everyone will gradually get better, as we patiently help young people catch up on the lost time and get their healthy bodies back.