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Keep kids from piling on pounds this summer

Posted 6/13/2016 by JASON TATKA, DO, FAAP
Pediatrician, Rainbow Portage Pediatrics

Jason Tatka, DO, FAAP

Jason Tatka, DO, FAAP

They may have a break from math class, but kids still do some adding over summer break. Problem is, what they tally is extra pounds, a new analysis shows.

Harvard scientists compiled the results of seven previous studies, with a total of more than 10,000 kids. The findings showed school-age children gain weight at a faster rate during summer vacation.

High-risk kids – those already overweight or in ethnic groups prone to heaviness – packed on the most extra heft in summer. That puts them at risk for obesity and all its health consequences, the researchers point out.

More food, less motion add up

You might expect that bike rides, pool time and fewer trips to the vending-machine line would slim students down over the summer. But absent a structured schedule, boredom and easy access to junk food may lead them to eat more calories instead.

Meanwhile, without gym class, recess or sports, kids often move less. Disrupted sleep schedules may also play a role.

Steps to stave off extra pounds

Keep kids from piling on pounds this summer

During the approximately 190 days your kids spend out of school each year, you serve as teacher, coach and principal. Keep your whole family’s weight in check with these summer strategies from Jason Tatka, DO, FAAP, a pediatrician at Rainbow Portage Pediatrics in Ravenna.

  • Schedule active time each day. Bike, hike, swim, do outdoor chores or play in the park as a family. “Choose times when you’re already together and everyone has a lot of energy – say, in the morning before the heat of the day,” adds Dr. Tatka.
  • Provide toys that encourage movement. Young kids may like balls and jump ropes.
  • Cut down on screen time. Limit nonactive TV and computer time to two hours per day. “Try exergames that have motion built in – dancing, inline skating or baseball, for example,” suggests Dr. Tatka.
  • Stock up on fresh, seasonal produce. At mealtimes, fill half of every plate with fruits and veggies.
  • Keep everyone hydrated. Supply plenty of low-fat milk and water instead of sugary juices and soda.

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