Importance of engaging with governmental public health mechanisms to ensure child physical fitness is a national health priority

To establish fitness monitoring system, it is vital to engage the public health mechanisms of government to make child physical fitness a national health priority. This is especially true during a global pandemic where freedom of movement is often restricted. 


Currently, there is not enough emphasis placed on maintaining PA levels in most countries, especially since data clearly indicate that national policies to the global pandemic can lead to drastic changes in the general public’s non-residential mobility patterns(1). We believe it is incumbent on research scientists to establish, promote and communicate a harmonised approach to PA guidelines in times of (self) quarantine (2), and to continuously petition the national governmental bodies to make moving a priority. Clear messaging on confinement PA best-practices will become especially important as the effects of poor movement, and increased obesity rates inflate as a result of global changes in movement patterns persist.

As an example on how to maintain this communication strategy with federal officials, take for example the steps SLOfit researchers took to engage with the public and government during the first wave of the COVID 19 pandemic. For context, on 12 March at 18:00, Slovenia declared an epidemic on the basis of Article 7 of the Infectious Diseases Act due to the growing number of cases of coronavirus infections, and all workplaces, schools and other public services were temporarily suspended from 16 March, 2020(3). A national plan was activated based on the expert opinion of Slovenia’s public health agency (NIJZ) and following the declaration of the World Health Organization (WHO) that COVID-19 was indeed a pandemic. Rules regarding business operations, cafes and movement were subsequently relaxed on 4 May 2020, with kindergartens and schools for the first 3 primary school grades set to open 18 May 2020, for a total of 63 days when most public services were suspended and the greatest social distancing and self-isolation measures were in place. The vast majority of Slovenian schoolchildren (aged 6 to 19) participate in a nation-wide, school-based physical fitness surveillance programme “SLOfit”(4); this system has allowed teachers and researchers access to high-quality, standardised data on physical fitness and education, used to directly inform public policy.

Slovenia has conducted, and continues to implement, the following countermeasures to minimise inactivity risk: first, we created a multi-disciplinary task force to draft a set of national physical activity guidelines for use during COVID-19, in-line with WHO and NIJZ recommendations. This task force consists of experts in kinesiology, sport science, environmental physiology, pedagogy, medical doctors, and epidemiologists. The guidelines were developed within 5-days of the government’s call for strict self-isolation and social distancing, and distributed/published online to various government agencies (in the native Slovene language), popular media, university websites(e.g.

For those who could not venture outside due to national regulations, remote location, mobility, age, disability, or for any other reason, Slovenia also implemented several actions for promoting PA in the home, specifically targeting access for the elderly and children.

Four strategies include:

  1. Televised home physical activity‒ strength, flexibility and range-of-motion exercises led by qualified physical education teachers have been broadcast on national television from 18:00 daily. This activity is just one of several components within the national campaign #vadidoma, and #trenirajdoma, initiated by SLOfit and organised by Slovenian public TV, the Slovenian Olympic Committee (SOC) and Faculty of Sport at the University of Ljubljana, and intended to reach the largest and most diverse audience possible.
  2. Online platforms ‒ PA lessons are livestreamed on the Facebook platform. The SOC also prepared a series of promotion clips with top athletes who encourage people to continue exercising at home during isolation.
  3. School system ‒ 95% of Slovenian schoolchildren are enrolled in the public-school system. Physical education teachers in elementary and secondary schools continue to provide lessons to their students remotely each week, supported by media platforms (i.e. children and youth at home are required to complete the same number of PA minutes as they would be in person at school). Lessons are followed up by the schoolteachers. We know that many children may be falling short of these PA goals, and so surveillance sampling has been incorporated into existing European projects specifically aimed at determining PA patterns during this quarantine time.
  4. Targeting child health ‒ in coordination with the SOC’s exercise clips, the Faculty of Sport has been performing a series of PA outreach specifically targeting primary-aged school children; these are airing in cooperation with a national TV educational show “Infodrom” which airs during the morning hours daily.

Finally, SLOfit researchers created a tool of public health engagement called the “SLOfit Barometer”, which has been published in a leading academic journal. You can read more about the development of the tool on this website HERE.

The bottom line is that without concerted efforts to continuously engage and pressure public health authorities, national government action, and inform the public, it is very difficult to create the framework for promoting child physical activity and fitness, especially during times of health crisis. Some of these strategies are currently under review to determine their ability to engage with the public, and feedback mechanisms for evaluating their effectiveness are also underway.

Read more

  • about what the SLOfit team is doing to promote child physical activity during the COVID19 pandemic HERE,
  • and the international author’s positive response to SLOfit’s policies HERE.


  1. Burtscher J, Burtscher M, Millet GP. (Indoor) isolation, stress and physical inactivity: vicious circles accelerated by Covid-19? Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. 2020.
  2. Jurak G, Morrison SA, Leskošek B, et al. Physical activity guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. Journal of Sport and Health Science. 2020.
  3. Republic of Slovenia Government Website COVID-19 Epidemic System. 2020; Accessed 13.05.2020.
  4. Strel J. Sports Educational Chart. Ljubljana: Ministry of Education and Sport;1997.

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