Impact of Covid-19 pandemic on the secular trends in motor performance, overweight and obesity of first graders in Basel

  • Lukas Nebiker University of Basel, Switzerland
  • Eirc Lichtenstein University of Basel, Switzerland
  • Christoph Hauser University of Basel, Switzerland
  • Giulia Lona University of Basel, Switzerland
  • Ralf Roth University of Basel, Switzerland
  • Martin Keller University of Basel, Switzerland
  • Henner Hanssen University of Basel, Switzerland
  • Oliver Faude University of Basel, Switzerland
Keywords: motor performance, overweight, obesity, secular trend, Covid-19



The development of appropriate motor skills early in life enhances the likelihood of lifelong physical activity (Hulteen et al., 2018). Furthermore, good fitness has direct health implications for child and youth development (Ortega et al., 2008). Physical fitness and the development of motor performance may be influenced by various factors like the Covid-19 pandemic as current example over the last two years. The pandemic affected children’s life, particularly regarding the reduced ability to attend structured leisure time sports activities. This study aims to describe the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on secular trends in motor performance and body composition in first graders in the city of Basel.


In the city of Basel, Switzerland, all first graders were tested yearly since 2014 with four motor performance parameters and anthropometrics: 20-meter shuttle run, 20-meter sprint, jumping sidewards, balancing backward, body weight and height. Children are categorized as overweight when they are above 90. Percentile for their age and sex in BMI and as obese when above 97. Percentile. Linear regression for motor performance parameters and logistic regression for weight status was used to predict 2021 and 2022 performance parameters based on data from 2014 to 2020. These predictions were compared to the performance achieved in 2021 and 2022.


Four thousand six-hundred sixty-two children were tested from 2014 to 2020, 728 in 2021, and 708 in 2022. The cohorts in 2021 and 2022 outperformed the predicted values by 6.1% [95 % CI: 1.8; 10.4] and 5.5% [1.0; 10.1] for shuttle run, 0.2% [-0.6; 1.0] and 3.5% [2.7; 4.4] for 20-meter sprint, 6.4% [3.7; 9.2] and 2.7% [-0.2; 5.5] for jumping sidewards and 4.0% [-0.5; 8.4] and 17.3% [12.1; 22.5] for balancing backward.

The proportion of overweight children in 2021 (16.4%) and 2022 (15.5%) was 47.4% [31.4; 63.3] and 62.2% [26.4; 98.1] higher than predicted. The percentage of obese children deviated strongly by 55.9% [33.9; 77.9] and 61.8% [14.1; 113.0] from predicted values. Boys were more affected by the impact of Covid-19 showing a 70.4% [38.5; 102.3] and 79.4% [14.0; 145.9] higher proportion of obesity than expected from secular trends for both cohorts compared to girls (34.8% [-1.0; 70.6] and 34.5% [-42.8; 111.7]).


Although more children were classified as overweight and obese than expected, the children performed better in all motor performance parameters. Preserving the possibility for unstructured activities and outdoor play at all times during the Covid-19 restrictions is a potential reason that the pandemic situation did not limit motor development. Nevertheless, the increased number of overweight and obese children is alarming. Potential reasons like changes in eating behaviour or mental health due to the pandemic situation remain speculative. However, public health interventions for these cohorts focusing on healthy body composition are strongly recommended.


Hulteen, R. M., Morgan, P. J., Barnett, L. M., Stotten, D. F., & Lubans, D. E. (2018). Development of foundational movement skills: A conceptual model for physical activity across the lifespan. Sports Medicine, 48(7), 1533–1540.

Ortega, F. B., Ruiz, J. R., Castillo, M. J., & Sjöström, M. (2008). Physical fitness in childhood and adolescence: A powerful marker of health. International Journal of Obesity, 32(1), 1–11.

How to Cite
Nebiker, L., Lichtenstein, E., Hauser, C., Lona, G., Roth, R., Keller, M., Hanssen, H., & Faude, O. (2023). Impact of Covid-19 pandemic on the secular trends in motor performance, overweight and obesity of first graders in Basel. Current Issues in Sport Science (CISS), 8(2), 083.