Don’t take P.E. for granted ever again, kids.
It’s safe to say life was far from normal in Japan during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic–including multiple “soft lockdowns” and nationwide school closures–and now we have the data to back that up. Without the mandatory P.E. classes, after school activities, recess, and more at Japanese schools, obesity rates among Japanese school students climbed sharply between the end of 2019 and throughout 2020.
But recent survey results show that this trend is reversing, and it’s more than likely due to more in-school time. According to an annual survey conducted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), obesity rates for year 6 elementary school students fell 0.4 points to 10.9 percent; year 3 junior high school students 0.6 points to 9 percent; and year 3 high school students dropped a full point to 9 percent.
The National Center for Child Development and Health (NHCCD) also suggest that food was a big part. Without school-provided meals in elementary schools and carefully-made bento lunchboxes in junior high and high school, kids were more prone to choosing snacks over nutritious foods during Japan’s “soft lockdowns”. But now that schools are running in-person and on schedule, students’ eating habits are easing back into the norm.
What hasn’t changed since the pandemic began in early 2020, unfortunately, is students’ worsening eyesight. In a survey that included over 3,330,000 students, results found that 36.7 percent of elementary school students had impaired vision, and that number jumped to 60.7 percent among junior high students–the worst it’s been since the 1970s.
Unsurprisingly, smartphone usage and other digital devices are speculated as some of the main contributors. Studies are to be conducted on the relationship between smartphone usage and students’ vision, so those will hopefully provide some proof.