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The South African Schools Collection

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

Sports activities at school mostly ground to a halt during the height of the pandemic, leaving children without the physical and social benefits of exercise and team sport. By Sue Voysey-Morris.

The chaos surrounding COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down and the different lockdown restrictions have curtailed opportunities for school sport and other activities.

Former strategic and partnerships manager at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA) Kathleen McQuaide says: “Moving more and sitting less is very important during a pandemic as it helps families to maintain their physical and mental health.”

Back on the field

There was some good news with the recent move to level 1 lockdown; coaches and teachers were able to welcome children back to the field. “The kids were chuffed to return to their learning space and reconnect with their mates,” comments Andrew Coley, deputy principal of Rivonia Primary.

Physical, emotional, and social interaction is vital for the healthy development of young lives. “Physical activity keeps learners fit with healthy minds and healthy bodies, but when it stops not only does their fitness suffer, but also their mental health,” says Coley. “It is, therefore, essential that schools work within the global regulations of COVID-19 safety protocols, as well as adhere to all South African government legislation.”

A new routine

Coley believes that educators need to be innovative and think outside the box to maintain fitness levels. “At our school, we have planned physical activity throughout the day and have changed timetables to accommodate this.”

Parents and minders are urged to get creative and explore different physical activities in their home and other safe spaces where certain activity is permitted in line with the lockdown level in place. Active young people have better health outcomes including cardiovascular and bone health, muscle fitness and weight status. McQuaide emphasises that any activity during lockdown that gets your child moving is beneficial. “Look at traditional playground games such as ‘hide-and-seek’, ‘tag’ as well as skipping and dancing to music. Also, get creative – build an obstacle course, play balloon volleyball, make an action movie or learn to juggle.”

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