Kids’ healthy habits worsen over summer break

Kids’ healthy habits worsen over summer break

Many kids look forward to summer break, and while it can be a time to have fun and relax, parents may want to take to make sure they’re not being too lackadaisical when it comes to their health.

Children watch more television than they do during the school year and their diets worsen as they consume more sugar and fewer vegetables, putting them at higher risk of obesity, according to a study from the Journal of School Health. Researchers looked at behaviors of 6,453 children in first through 12th grade as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey.

“During the school year, schools are able to help guide a child toward healthy choices using school lunches and physical education classes, but that link is lost when summer break arrives,” says Dr. Judith Savage, pediatrician at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “This can be particularly troublesome for students living at or below the poverty level, who normally rely on free or reduced lunches during the school year.”

While screen time increased, exercise habits were not significantly affected, with students reporting just five extra minutes of daily physical activity during the summer. High school students were the only ones that significantly increased their amount of exercise, but still fell short of the national recommendation of one hour of exercise per day.

On average, students of all ages and income levels do not meet benchmarks for exercise or diet throughout the year, but the problem worsens during the summer.

“Healthy habits are important year round and summer is an especially easy time to be active with the warm weather inviting us outside,” Dr. Savage says. “Eating healthier can be as simple as replacing sugar-heavy snacks with fresh vegetables and dips, where available. It’s important that we don’t ignore these issues, but instead work toward prevention and instilling healthy habits in our kids. As a community, we – parents, educators, caregivers and physicians – owe it to our kids to give them the best chance at long-term health.”

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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.