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Its Not Just Adults That Gain Weight Over The Holiday Season

It is not only adults who tend to put on weight during holidays. Studies have identified that this trend extends to children as young as 6 and 7 years old. One study monitored students’ body mass index (BMI) over the year and found that there was a significant increase in BMI over the holiday period compared to during the school term. This finding was especially noted in children who were already overweight.

Similarly to in adults, this weight gain in children is suggested to be due to the breakdown of “routine” that occurs during the holidays. It is relatively easy to regulate children’s behaviour while at school by restricting the times of the day when they eat and allocating regular time for sport. Once children leave school, they have more freedom to indulge in sedentary activities, such as watching TV or playing on the computer, and are not necessarily encouraged to participate in sporting activities. Excessive snacking is also likely to be increased indoors and at home compared to during the school day.

Normally, a child’s weight will change over the year, with slight increases during winter which are then lost during summer. This means that children maintain relatively the same weight (not taking into account normal child growth) at a given time in the year. In obese children, this pattern is not observed.  Obese children put on weight during the summer school break, and do not lose it at other times of the year. Nutritionists have suggested that this abnormal pattern may disrupt weight rhythms, which further contributes to obesity in children.

Parent involvement in children’s nutrition and physical activity is extremely important and will help improve habits for children at home. Parents should encourage their children to get involved in after-school sporting activities or holiday sport programs, and to spend more time playing active games outside. TV and video games should be restricted to about an hour a day, perhaps a wee bit longer if it is really cold outside. There are great weekend activities in the winter such as ski and snowboard clubs, ice skating, and cross country skiing. Everyone in the family can participate in snowshoeing! Kids hate the cold? Try indoor volleyball leagues or indoor tennis courts!

Parents should also monitor very carefully what their children are eating and how often they are eating. Developing an eating routine for the holidays, similar to the school day routine, will help to keep them healthy. Of course, treats during the holiday are fine, as long as they are balanced with lots of healthy food, water and exercise!

Sources: virtualmedicalcenter.com

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