A new Canadian study has found that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased unhealthy behaviour in post-secondary students.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan, reported that isolation brought on by the novel coronavirus has led to a “significant worsening of already poor dietary habits, low activity levels, sedentary behaviour, and high alcohol consumption among university students.”
Nutrition professor and lead author of the study, Gordon Zello, said in a press release that the findings could be used to help students maintain healthy behaviours going forward.
“Our findings are important because university students, especially those most vulnerable for poor nutrition and sedentary behaviour, should be targeted for interventions aimed at maintaining and improving physical activity and dietary practices during this pandemic and beyond,” Zello said.
Researchers noted the study is the first to assess “changes in students’ dietary intake, physical activity, and sedentary behaviour” amid COVID-19.
The findings were published Friday in the peer-reviewed medical journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.
The study looked at 125 graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina who were living independently or had roommates, but were responsible for buying and preparing their own meals.
Over the course of the four-month study, the students responded to online questionnaires about their food and drink consumption, physical activity and sedentary behaviour before and during the pandemic.
The study started just as Saskatchewan was imposing COVID-19 restrictions, according to researchers. Zello said this timing ensured that details of students’ eating and activity habits prior to the pandemic and during it were “fresh” in their minds.
“With pre-pandemic research already showing university students to be a vulnerable group for inadequate diet and physical activity, the measures imposed to curb the COVID-19 pandemic presented a unique opportunity to examine further impact on their lives,” Zello said.
The study found that the students consumed less food every day during the pandemic compared to before.
Researchers say the students ate 20 per cent less meat, 44 per cent less dairy, and 45 per cent fewer vegetables as the pandemic continued.
While they drank considerably less caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and tea, Zello said the students’ alcohol consumption “increased significantly.” He added that these dietary habits could pose serious health implications following the pandemic.
“This dietary inadequacy combined with long hours of sedentary behaviour and decreased physical activity could increase health risks in this unique population during COVID-19 confinement and once the pandemic ends,” Zello explained in the release.
The researchers behind the study noted that “several reasons” may explain the students’ dietary shift.
Zello said that public health measures implemented to help stop the spread of COVID-19, such as reduced grocery store hours and restaurant closures, may have limited students’ shopping frequency and the availability of healthy food options.
According to the study, previous research has shown that psychological distress brought on by the coronavirus has been linked to “poor diet quality, particularly increased consumption of alcohol.” With that in mind, the study said that students may be eating less to counteract their lack of exercise and “increased sedentariness.”
Researchers found that only 16 per cent of the students studied were meeting Canadian guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity per week prior to the pandemic. They say that “further decreased” to 9.6 per cent during COVID-19.
Of those that were meeting Canadian activity guidelines before the pandemic, researchers say 90 per cent became less active.
The number of hours spent in “sedentary behaviour,” sitting or lying down with little energy expenditure, also rose by three hours to approximately 11 hours a day, according to the study.
“There’s no doubt that measures such as the closures of gyms and other recreational facilities by the universities and other private and public establishments within the province resulted in reductions in the level of physical activity,” the study said.
Researchers say another reason for the decrease in physical activity may be that many students were no longer walking to school after universities moved to remote learning formats.
The study noted that 55 per cent of students studied were employed before the pandemic, and only 49 per cent continued to be employed in the following months, adding to the overall decrease in activity.
Canada Post urging Canadians to reach out to loved ones – TheChronicleHerald.ca
SYDNEY, N.S. —
Canada Post is urging Canadians to reach out to loved ones with a free, postage-paid postcard that will soon be arriving in mailboxes across the country.
Some 13.5 million postcards are expected to start arriving March 1, which can be used to send a special message to anyone, anywhere in Canada.
Every household across the country will receive one of six specially designed postcards that can be used.
“Meaningful connection is vital for our emotional health, sense of community and overall well-being,” said Doug Ettinger, president and CEO of Canada Post, in a news release.
“Canada Post wants everyone to stay safe, but also stay in touch with the people who matter to them.”
The postcards are part of the “Write Here Write Now” program that was launched in September 2020 to encourage Canadians to use letter writing to connect in a heartfelt way.
Messages on the cards include “I miss you,” “I’ve been meaning to write,” Wishing I were there,” and “Sending hugs.”
Those who send the cards are encouraged to share photos and video of sending and receiving their postcards using #WriteHereWriteNow.
For more details on the program visit: canadapost.ca/writenow.
The campaign is similar to one announced by Engage Nova Scotia, “From Me to You.” That campaign urges provincial residents to send a cheery note to strangers and friends alike.
It is hoped the notes will be used by multiple sectors from businesses to individuals as a way to reach out to others in a time of a global pandemic. Public health restrictions across the country have now been in place for nearly a year in a bid to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Such restrictions include limitations on the number of people gathering both indoors and outdoors and have also curtailed travelling between provinces with the exception of essential workers.
Both programs are hoped to provide a measure of comfort for those having reduced contact with family and friends.
To learn more, visit https://engagenovascotia.ca/from-me-to-you.
Some travellers at Toronto airport fined for violating Ontario rules – CBC.ca
Several international travellers arriving at Toronto’s Pearson airport have refused to comply with Ontario’s rules aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, local police said Wednesday.
Peel Region police said that while most cases were resolved after conversations with officers, some people refused to follow the rules and were fined $880 under Ontario regulations.
There have been 49 fines handed out since the start of February, a police spokesperson told CBC News. Those fines relate to things like skipping COVID-19 tests or other infractions.
However, police said they will not detain anyone for breaking a new hotel quarantine rule, which came into effect this week, unless there are aggravating circumstances involved, such as a criminal offence.
They said the Public Health Agency of Canada would be responsible for issuing any potential fines under the Quarantine Act.
The federal government this week implemented new rules that require anyone arriving in Canada to fly through Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver or Montreal and stay in isolation at one of several quarantine hotels for up to three nights. Travellers may only leave after a negative COVID-19 test but are expected to self-isolate for a total of 14 days.
Federal public health agency ‘aware of the situation’
The Public Health Agency of Canada said Wednesday that it was “aware of the situation” and looking into allegations of people skipping hotel quarantine.
“Travellers are legally obligated to follow the instructions of a screening officer or quarantine officer through the 14-day period, whether in regards to testing, transit to locations, their mandatory hotel stopover or during quarantine at home or other suitable location,” it said.
“If they do not follow the instructions, there are penalties, including a maximum fine of up to $750,000 or imprisonment for six months.”
Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel Region’s medical officer of health, said Wednesday that the quarantine measures are in place to protect the public.
“It’s unfortunate … that this might be occurring,” said Loh. “Please remember that it’s a disease that spreads from person to person, and it takes all of us to do our part.”
RCMP in Vancouver has no reports of people not complying
Patrick Brown, the mayor of Brampton, Ont., just north of Pearson airport, said that people who choose to ignore the regulations are being selfish.
“By not being mindful that you can bring dangerous variants into the country, you’re being selfish to your neighbours, to your city,” said Brown. “I hope that people do abide by the new stricter guidelines.”
Meanwhile, RCMP in Vancouver said they had no reports of people failing to comply with the new rules.
Federal officials have said that the costs associated with keeping travellers in isolation at one of the government-approved hotels could be up to $2,000 for a three-night stay. Travellers are expected to cover those costs, which the government has said include the testing, transportation, food, hotel security and cleaning.
Series of measures came into effect Monday
The hotel stays are among a series of measures that came into effect on Monday to limit the spread of COVID-19 and more contagious variants of the virus.
Most in-coming air travellers will need to get tested for the virus upon arrival and again toward the end of their mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Travellers arriving at land borders will be given self-swab kits, and testing will be provided on site at five high-volume border crossings.
The new rules are in addition to previous orders that require a negative test result within 72 hours of arrival. Travellers will need to complete a second test on Day 10 of their self-isolation period.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the tighter border controls are meant to keep everyone safe.
Canada's new top military commander steps aside following sexual misconduct claim – CBC.ca
Admiral Art McDonald abruptly stepped aside late Wednesday night as Canada’s top military commander after questions were posed to the Department of National Defence about a sexual misconduct investigation into allegations against him.
Those allegations, CBC News has learned, involve a female crew member and an incident a decade ago aboard a warship that was participating in a northern exercise.
Several media outlets were tipped off that an investigation by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service was underway and had been for some time.
CBC News asked for comment late Wednesday and received no response until 11 p.m., when Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan released a statement announcing that McDonald — who took over the chief of the defence staff post just a month ago — had stepped aside voluntarily while the investigation is ongoing.
The minister did not reveal the nature of the allegations against McDonald and said he will not comment further because the investigation is ongoing.
Allegation dates back to 2010
However, sources with knowledge of the investigation spoke to CBC News and say the allegation of misconduct dates back to 2010 and involves an incident aboard HMCS Montreal, which at the time was involved in the military’s annual Arctic exercise known as Operation Nanook.
The allegation against McDonald, who was a naval captain at the time, involves a female junior officer and took place during a party that involved alcohol.
The investigation comes on the heels of another, separate case involving the man McDonald replaced.
Military police are investigating allegations that the former chief of the defence staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance, had a long-standing inappropriate relationship with a female subordinate and separately sent a racy email to another woman, also of lower rank.
The allegations against Vance led to a parliamentary inquiry into when the Liberal government became aware of the claims and what sort of action it took to verify them.
Investigation began a month ago
In his speech during his swearing-in ceremony, McDonald apologized to victims of racism and misconduct in the military.
He later told reporters that he felt it was necessary to make the apology because he was certain that he had unintentionally been part of some of the problems that the military is now trying to address.
He did not cite a specific incident in his past in those remarks on Jan. 14, but suggested that “when challenged by some of the circumstances, I thought maybe I didn’t hear a voice.”
Sources tell CBC News the investigation into the 2010 incident involving McDonald began a month ago, around the time the new chief was sworn in.
Several witnesses and the alleged victim have been interviewed, the source said.
Both the defence department and Sajjan’s office have refused all further comment.
Sajjan has appointed Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre as acting chief of the defence staff. Eyre currently is the commander of the army.
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