Children Gain Unhealthy Weight On Summer, Not Winter

By Monica U Santos , Nov 02, 2016 06:02 PM EDT

Children are at greater risk of gaining unhealthy amounts of weight during summer vacation than during the school year, according to a new study. These findings were published in the journal Obesity and released Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Obesity Society, in New Orleans.

"Educators have long worried that summer break leads to knowledge loss, and now we know that it is also a time of excessive weight gain for our youngest school children," said Paul von Hippel of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin, who conducted the research.

"Our findings raise questions for parents and policymakers about how to help children adopt healthy behaviors during the long summer vacation to stop unhealthy weight gain. Our results also suggest that we cannot reverse the obesity epidemic if we focus only on what children are doing and eating while they are in school."

According to NPR, researchers tracked 18,170 children from the start of kindergarten through the end of second grade. This includes the records of the changes in their body mass index or BMI. They found that the kids' rate of overweight increased from 23 percent to 29 percent during that time.

The researchers also saw that the rate of obesity rose from 9 percent to 11.5 percent. All of that increase occurred during the two summer vacation periods, not during the three school years, the researchers said.

"It really doesn't appear that schools were ever the problem," says Hippel. The findings the researcher got raise questions for parents and policymakers about how to help children adopt healthy living during the summer vacation. They believe that this will stop unhealthy weight gain and will result in positive effects.

Obesity Society spokeswoman Amanda Staiano said, "Now that we have solid data pointing to summer vacation as a time for potential weight gain in young children, the next step is to work together to shape out-of-school behaviors." She suggested that parents help their children stick to a school-year sleep schedule and reduce the amount of screen time.


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