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Reimagining physical activity for children following the systemic disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia
  1. Leon Straker1,
  2. Verity Booth2,
  3. Verity Cleland3,
  4. Sjaan Gomersall4,
  5. David Lubans5,
  6. Tim Olds2,
  7. Lindsey Reece6,
  8. Nicola Ridgers7,8,
  9. Michalis Stylianou9,
  10. Grant Tomkinson8,10,
  11. Kylie Hesketh11
  12. Active Healthy Kids Australia Working Group
  1. 1 ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child, School of Allied Health, enAble Institute, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
  2. 2 Alliance for Research in Exercise Nutrition and Activity, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  3. 3 Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  4. 4 Centre for Research on Exercise, Physical Activity and Health, School of Human Movement Studies, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia
  5. 5 Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
  6. 6 School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  7. 7 Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria, Australia
  8. 8 Alliance for Research in Exercise Nutrition and Activity, Allied Health and Human Performance, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  9. 9 School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, The University of Queensland, Saint Lucia, Queensland, Australia
  10. 10 Department of Kinesiology and Public Health Education, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA
  11. 11 Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor Leon Straker, School of Allied Health, Curtin University, Perth, WA 6845, Australia; L.Straker{at}

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COVID-19-related restrictions disrupted the normal social and environmental systems within which children live, learn and play. These sudden societal changes provided opportunities for children and young people, their families, and the professionals and authorities supporting them to observe and experience a different type of world and reflect on what they value and what children’s lives could be. Throughout 2020 and 2021, Australian regions experienced different ‘lockdown’ situations—ranging from just a few days to over 250 days of significant restrictions including limited opportunities to leave the home, no in-person schooling, no organised sports, no mixing with friends and extended family and closures of local playgrounds.

Although potentially biased, available proxy-reported and self-reported data show that lockdowns were associated with changes in children and young people’s physical activity (PA) and sedentary behaviours (including screen use)—but these changes were not uniform across Australia and not all were detrimental.

Changes in PA

An Australian national survey1 found 42% of parents reported their children were less active versus 8% who said they were more active. While most parents (61%) said children had more time for PA, many (49%) struggled to find ways to keep their children active. One state-based survey found that 70% of parents reported a decrease in their children’s PA.2 However, another state-based survey reported no overall decrease, but rather a shift from organised to unstructured PA.3

In response to the COVID-19 disruptions in Australia we witnessed several …

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  • Twitter @Leon_Straker, @davidlubans, @lindseyreece28

  • Collaborators Active Healthy Kids Australia Working Group: Leon Straker, Verity Booth, Verity Cleland, Sjaan Gomersall, David Lubans, Tim Olds, Lindsey J Reece, Nicola D Ridgers, Michalis Stylianou, Grant Tomkinson, Kylie Hesketh.

  • Contributors All authors contributed to the conceptual development of the paper and revising of drafts and approved the final draft.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.