When School's Out, Kids Are Less Healthy

Summer break is associated with play, activities and outdoor adventures, but most children engage in more unhealthy behaviors when they're not in school, according to a new study.

Kids consume more sugar, watch more television and eat fewer vegetables during the summer months, researchers report, regardless of family income.

For children with diabetes, these obesity-promoting behaviors can be dangerous if left unchecked by parents who are still working normal hours or leaving kids at summer camps or day care centers.

Healthy kids year-round

The study included data on 6,453 U.S. children in grades 1-12.

Researchers found, in the summer, kids watched an average of 20 more minutes of television per day and drank three ounces more of sugar-sweetened beverages per day than during the school year.

While kids were slightly more active during the summer - they exercised five minutes more on average than during the school year - they still did not meet government recommendations about physical activity.

Children from higher-income families engaged in more moderate or vigorous activity, while lower-income teenage girls exercised significantly less during the summer.

"The school environment remains essential for shaping healthy eating and active living behaviors, and schools can play a leadership role in fostering a healthy transition from the school year to summer breaks," said study author Dr. Claire Wang. "We see from our results a need for school-based obesity prevention efforts to go beyond the school day and the school year."

The study is published in the Journal of School Health.

Source: Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

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