Spring break is approaching and that means summer break is around the corner. Research shows summer inactivity contributes to youth weight gain. A story by NPR describes studies that show weight gain over the summer may be due to a number of factors. For one, kids and teens may eat more and have more screen time over the summer. As a result, they do not burn as many calories as they would in school. Secondly, kids can have irregular sleep schedules because they are not following their regular bedtimes or getting up around the same time each day over the summer. We know that irregular sleep patterns are associated with weight gain for youth and adults, so even during the summer a regular sleep routine is important.
Now is the time to think about how to combat summer inactivity. Below are several ways to promote activity and fun.
- Plan physical activities. Make time for park visits, outside play, play dates, and family outings that encourage movement. These do not have to be vacations or outings that cost money. Take a walk around the neighborhood, the local high school track, or find a walking trail to do as a family. In Austin, there are plenty of free and expensive options for physical activities.
- Volunteer. Encourage volunteer work at an animal shelter, nursing home, community organization, or church. This is a great way to build compassion and encourage responsibility. Little Helping Hands helps families and children find volunteer opportunities in the Austin area.
- Take a tour. Enhance learning during the summer by visiting a museum, a natural attraction, a fire station, or a museum. There are several options in Austin that incorporate physical activity and learning.
- Enroll in a class or summer program. Some children may enjoy enrichment courses such as an engineering class or cooking class. Austin Community College offers STEM camps and The University of Texas offers summer programs for high school and middle school students.
- Find summer camps. Summer camps are starting to fill up now! Start doing your research and decide if a summer camp is the best option for your family. Camp Guide Austin 360 is a great place to start.
Summer inactivity contributes to youth weight gain. When you engage your child in activities, it can promote activity and deter weight gain. If children are enrolled in structured programs, it can also help them stick to a regular sleep schedule. Happy summer planning!
Dr. Mariel Cannady
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