Children tend to gain more weight over the summer, study reveals

Despite being out of the sedentary classroom routine, children tend to gain more weight during the summer months, reveals a new study in The American Journal of Public Health.

The reason, researchers said, is similar to why adults tend to pack on pounds over the weekend or during vacation: Structure is typically less rigid and routine is often varied for kids during the summer.

Schools healthier than non-school environments

The study tracked 5,380 children at 310 schools, finding that body mass index (BMI) increased more quickly over summer break than during the school year.

And while schools tend to be blamed for enabling childhood obesity, the research found that, during summer, schools are actually healthier places for kids to be than non-school environments.

"Many non-school environments are relatively unstructured and unsupervised," the researchers wrote, "allowing children to indulge in sedentary activities and excessive snacking."

Another study from Baylor University also found that, for obese and overweight kids, a school environment during the summer had a protective effect on their health.

"Many working parents, concerned about their children’s safety during the summer, choose to keep them inside while they are away," said Dennis Woo, MD, former chair of pediatrics at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, Calif. "Without many options to choose from, children spend a lot of time in front of computer and television screens, which is often paired with too much snacking."

Avoiding summer weight gain

To keep kids from gaining weight over summer break, Woo recommends that kids have limited screen time – two hours per day – and that they enroll in recreational programs like summer camps or sports teams. If older kids or teens are home alone, filling the fridge with healthy snacks will help them avoid eating too much junk food, too.

"Children who are obese are likely to be obese as adults, so it is important to address all issues that may increase their risk," Woo said.

Source: NY Times, Santa Monica Mirror

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