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Health Tip of the Day - Does Summertime Weight Gain Undermine Youth Obesity Prevention Efforts?

For many children, summer vacation is a three-month hiatus from the daily responsibilities and scheduled demands they experience during the nine-month school year. Yet the freedoms many adults may remember from their childhood summers—riding bikes to the corner store, walking to the local swimming hole, playing active games with neighborhood friends every day—have become less common among today’s youth. Emerging evidence shows that children gain more weight during their summer vacation than they do during the entire school year, and some studies also find that the fitness gains children achieve during the school year are erased over the summer months. 

Promising efforts to achieve healthy eating and physical activity standards in summer programs are underway, but it will require additional time before the impact of these interventions is fully known. Given the existing information regarding youth and summer vacation, the following recommendations are provided:

■ In 2011, healthy eating and physical activity standards endorsed by the National Afterschool Association included standards for day-long summer programs.15 These standards call for increases in the amount of fruits and vegetables children eat and the amount of moderate-tovigorous physical activity they should accumulate while attending summer programs. These standards should be implemented by the settings many youth frequent during the summer, such as YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, and Parks and Recreation-operated summer day camps.

■ Existing approaches, such as professional development trainings, should be tailored to staff employed in locations youth frequent during the summer.

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