The consequence of the pandemic is also weight gain, especially in children, according to a survey by a Slovak insurance company

Only 22% of Slovaks rate their lifestyle positively, according to a survey by Slovak Všeobecná zdravotní pojišťovna (VšZP), conducted by 2muse on a sample of 617 respondents. The coronavirus pandemic has affected the lifestyle, physical activity and affected the health of the adult population and children. The VšZP survey states that up to a third of respondents are overweight, and a total of 41% of people admit to gaining weight in the past two years. In the survey, parents report that a pandemic leads to weight gain, especially in children aged 9 to 11.

The reason may be the fact that more than two-thirds of children of all ages had closed circles, and the pandemic has thus deepened passive leisure time. Alarmingly, up to 21% of children between the ages of 6 and 18 do not practice any sports activity. Young people aged 15 to 18 have left circles and extracurricular activities for good in the past two years. However, passive leisure is also characteristic of the adult population. About a third of Slovaks rarely or never play sports.

Returning to the pre-pandemic period will be difficult

Weight gain during the pandemic is also confirmed by Elena Prokopová, the chief expert of the Ministry of Health of the Slovak Republic for general medicine for children and adolescents. “There was a decrease in physical activity and an increase in sedentary activities in children after the age of 6. When children started coming back to our clinics for preventive check-ups, we noticed a significant increase the number of children gaining weight, an increased incidence of children with poor posture, scoliosis and visual impairments We have also recorded a greater number of children with borderline or high blood pressure or with low levels elevated levels of blood serum cholesterol,” Elena Prokopová said. According to the expert, children’s eating habits have also changed, for the worse. “During their stay at home, they had free access to the refrigerator, sweets, sugary drinks. Going back to the pre-pandemic period will be difficult,” the chief expert said.

According to the survey, food is another Achilles’ heel of Slovaks. Only 2 out of 10 respondents eat healthy, while children fare even worse. On the one hand, parents are inclined to state that the consumption of healthy foods (fresh vegetables and fruits) in their household has increased during the confinements and, conversely, the consumption of unhealthy foods has decreased. On the other hand, most of the respondents admitted that they don’t mind food during normal working days, they usually eat what they have on hand. Parents who assess children’s diets share the same opinion. Especially young people in puberty (12-14 years) consume everything they want without limiting themselves.

Only 22% of respondents commented positively on the overall lifestyle rating. The survey also confirmed that children’s behavior and health are strongly influenced by their parents, their behavior and their attitudes. If parents control their weight, their children manage to maintain an optimal weight.

State VšZP launches educational and preventive program

Last year, compared to 2020, the number of VšZP policyholders treated for obesity increased by 10%. According to the available data, if obesity dominates as a risk factor in childhood and adolescence, in adulthood others, such as high blood pressure after 40 years and disorders of fat and sugar metabolism , are gradually added. “Therefore, VšZP has a prescription ordered by primary care physicians to determine cardiovascular risk, thanks to which it is possible to competently predict not only the financial cost of the insurance pool, but also to define risk factors for health. All of these risk factors are controllable and there is a solution at every age to reduce these factors. Effective tools for their reduction include effective physical activity and adjustment of dietary habits,” emphasizes Beata Havelková, Vice President of the Board of Directors of VšZP.

People want to change their eating habits and increase their physical activity, but in most cases they fail to follow through on these plans. The VšZP educational and preventive program called Movement is healthy should help them. The insurance company was inspired by similar health education campaigns, for example in the Netherlands and Finland, where they had a demonstrably positive impact on the health of the population.

“We are increasing the availability of relevant information on a healthy lifestyle, as well as the availability of appropriate exercises. The website offers the general public valuable content in the form of training programs for the whole family, articles on ‘experts on the principles of balanced nutrition, menus adapted to the needs of active people and other types for a healthier life,’ adds Richard Strapko, CEO of VšZP.

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