Summer May Boost Childhood Obesity
Study: Kids Gain More Weight During Summer Break Than During School
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 28, 2007 -- Childhood obesity may peak during summer break, not during
the school year.
A new study shows that kindergarteners and first-grade students are more
likely to gain extra weight during summer break than during the school
If so, the most productive ways to help children reach and maintain a normal
weight "will be those that target children's behavior not only during
school hours but also, and most important, after the school bell rings,"
write the researchers.
They included research statistician Paul von Hippel, PhD, of Ohio State
University's sociology department and sociology professor Brian Powell, PhD, of
Indiana University at Bloomington.
Problem ‘Outside Schools’
"We really can't blame schools for the rise in childhood obesity. The
problem is primarily outside of schools," says von Hippel in an Ohio State
University news release.
School schedules and physical education classes may curb kids' weight during
the school year, but that all goes out the window during summer break, he
"This isn't to say that schools can't improve," Powell says in an
Indiana University news release.
"When I read about school budgets being cut, resulting in cuts in
physical education or after-school programs, I now think, 'What will happen in
terms of children's weight?'" Powell says.
Brown, von Hippel, and colleagues studied data on 5,380 children at 310
elementary schools nationwide.
Researchers visited the schools to measure the kids' height and weight four
times: at the beginning of kindergarten, at the end of kindergarten, at the
beginning of first grade, and at the end of first grade.
The researchers used those measurements to calculate the children's BMI
(body mass index). They found that BMI grew fastest during summertime.
"During summer vacation, average BMI growth was more than twice as fast
as during either school year," the researchers write.
It's natural for kids to gain weight as they grow. But von Hippel's team
sees no clear reason why growth should be particularly fast during the
"This study raises questions that the data cannot fully answer," the
researchers write. For instance, they don’t know if the kids ate more or
exercised less during summer break, or whether the results apply to older