When the first case of Coronavirus was confirmed in Kenya on 12 March 2020, no one knew how deeply it would modify our realities. It changed physical activity, sport, social development and the overall wellbeing of the people. It was a turning point in modern history. Covid-19 pandemic changed the way we live and interact with one another.
The pandemic halted sporting activity not just in Kenya but also in other parts of the world. When the president announced a suspension of all sports activity across the country, the goal was to reduce the spread of the virus. Lockdown measures and cession of movement were implemented with particular focus on high-risk areas such as Nakuru, Kiambu, Machakos, Kajiado and Nairobi. These measures had enormous consequences on the economy.
Cancellation of sports activities such as football and athletics was devastating to the stakeholders including coaches, players and sports organizations like FIFA. With stadium closed and matches postponed, their source of livelihood was interrupted. The lost income presented mental health challenges and as such, coaches, athletes and their support staff were always a cause for concern.
Major sporting events such as Tokyo Olympics were cancelled, which had huge ramifications on the sports industry. Apart from sports, physical activities such as personal exercise were also affected. People were not allowed to go to the gym as per the social distancing rule adding to the pressures and unfamiliarity of things.
It is well documented that physical activity plays a huge role in preventive healthcare and wellbeing. Everyone can benefit from physical activities, not just the athletes, which points to the important role of sports. Participating in moderate exercise or some form of physical exercise promotes individuals’ wellbeing. Lockdown measures had a reversing effect on gains of physical activities and sports. When people are depressed and mentally disturbed, they become vulnerable to diseases exposing them to even more risks. Due to lockdown measures, more employees began to work from home, which meant an increase in the number of people living sedentary life. When people work from home, they rarely engage in exercise or any form of physical activity.
When schools closed down, children had limited time for play, which meant limited socialization. The measures put in place to control the spread of the disease forced people to remain indoors and limit their social interactions. Lack of (or reduced) physical contact and interactions affect children’s social development skills and behavior. Children learn through social interactions and play, but the lockdown meant that they could not play together as a group and socialize. A socially interactive environment helps children develop social intelligence, confidence, creativity and strong language skills. When online teaching was implemented, children missed the gains of physical education. Some of these benefits include improved physical fitness, responsibility, and discipline.
The pandemic denied millions of children an opportunity to develop and strengthen self-esteem and positive attitude. When children make friends through interactive learning, they boost their self-esteem, and are able to develop emotional intelligence, empathy and the ability to master meaningful conversation.
It feels like we are beginning to recover from the pandemic at least insofar as sporting activities go, but if we’ve learnt anything for the past two years, things can take a deadly turn pretty quickly. As long as we are having the window to engage in physical activities, let’s take the chance, you never know, another variant might just be in the offing.