Your kids probably will eat more sugar, watch more TV and eat fewer vegetables over summer vacation, a new study finds.
These weight-gaining behaviors are common for both rich and poor children, the researchers said.
“Although obesity-promoting behaviors are generally more common during the summer break, the differences in obesity behaviors between income groups were not exacerbated during the summer break,” said Dr. Claire Wang, co-director of the Obesity Prevention Initiative at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.
Researchers analyzed data collected from more than 6,400 American children and teens in grades 1 to 12 between 2003 and 2008. They found they watched an average of 20 minutes more television a day and drank three ounces more of sugar-sweetened beverages a day during their summer break than during the school year.
Physical activity levels were about the same, with an average of five minutes more a day during the summer break than during the school year.
However, high school students got significantly more exercise during the summer than during the school year, and those from higher-income families were particularly likely to get moderate-to-vigorous exercise during the summer.
Teen girls in lower-income families were much less likely to get moderate-to-vigorous exercise during the summer, the researchers said.
The study was recently published online in the Journal of School Health.
“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,” Wang said in a school news release.
“We see from our results a need for school-based obesity prevention efforts to go beyond the school day and the school year,” she concluded.