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Risk of Childhood Obesity Increases in the Summertime

By Lola Olvera, ENC Communications Intern

The rings of the last school bell have barely faded away. The backpack full of old homework has barely been put down. And already, your child has gathered some microwaveable snacks, found the comfiest spot on the couch, and flipped to his favorite TV show, where he may remain for the next two months. If this isn’t your kid, there’s a good chance it’s the neighbor’s kid or one of their classmates – the trend is so prevalent. It can also be damaging.

A national study cited by GMA News Online found that “During each of the two summers in the study, the proportion of overweight and obese kids increased by approximately one percentage point per month. There were no meaningful increases in the numbers of overweight or obese kids during the academic year.”

During the academic school year, children are regulated by a schedule that allows for limited eating periods and active recess time. During summer vacations, and in the absence of structure, children are more likely to be less active, stay up longer, indulge in junk food and spend more time on sedentary activities.

All of these factors contribute to childhood obesity, a condition that affects 17% of the children in the U.S. and that has tripled in cases in the last generation alone. Additionally, according to NIH, almost 32% of U.S. children and adolescents are either overweight or obese.

Although some cases of obesity are caused by genetic or hormonal disorders, most cases are due to a combination of poor eating habits and lack of exercise. Obesity can lead to poor self-confidence, depression, behavioral problems and increases the likelihood of getting Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, asthma and sleep apnea.

According to the National Wildlife federation. “In the last two decades, childhood has moved indoors. The average American boy or girl spends as few as 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen…Our kids are out of shape, tuned out and stressed out.”

The organization suggests that moving play time outdoors can have the most benefits for children, not only in keeping the weight gain at bay through vigorous exercise, but also in helping with ADHD-like symptoms, critical thinking skills and emotional development.

Don’t have the time to oversee your kids as they take a romp around the park? Sign your kids up to an outdoor camp, such as the ENC’s Summer Nature Camp, where they can stay active exploring along gorgeous trails under the watchful eyes of our experienced naturalists. It’s the perfect way to keep a kid’s summer structured but fun.

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