Child obesity continues to rise during summer break
By Anjelicia Bruton
Kids will have all summer to play, but it might not be enough to help the weight-gain issue that commonly leads to obesity that often occurs when kids aren’t in school.
According to professionals in fitness, children weigh a lot more in the summer because of the lack of activities and healthy food options.
Florida Department of Education enforces that students should take at least one course of physical education during their time at primary and secondary education.
Julie Puckett, studio manager and trainer at OrangeTheory Fitness, said not having to take physical education in the summer gives kids the option to be underactive.
“They don’t do anything,” Puckett said. “They get out of school, so they don’t have P.E. anymore and they sit in front of the television playing video games. That happens a lot during the summer. We find that a lot of kids find themselves sitting down somewhere entertaining themselves for the summer.”
Kengel Maysonet, a Tallahassee Community College student, said that the rigorous coursework that kids take on during the school year is overwhelming and relaxation is definitely needed when it’s time for summer break.
“After school ends you need a break, but after doing nothing for a certain period of time it’s really hard to start doing anything at all,”Maysonet said. “I personally feel that the days go by and I’ve hardly moved out of my room.”
Maysonet has never been to a summer camp. Cam Gilbert, a Tallahassee resident, has been to several camps and said students should partake in them to develop different skills to become a well-rounded person.
Gilbert said not only students should practice a healthier lifestyle.
“I think they would benefit everybody, not just kids, to maintain a minimum activity throughout their lives,” Gilbert said. “Dedicating oneself to go outside once a day helps to maintain a healthy mental state and it’s easier for you to be active if you keep it up instead of giving yourself really long breaks. It’s difficult to create habits, it’s really easy to break habits.”
Deerlake Middle School Coach and Athletic Director, Alex Stemle said that this summer they are hosting a variety of camps for elementary and middle school students to broaden kids’ horizons exposing them to an array of activities.
“It provides a place for kids in our community to come and be active and it provides a place for the parents to drop off their kids who are working,” Stemle said. “It allows us to start to develop their skill level with our younger ones getting them interested into sports which is a good opportunity for everyone.”
Deerlake Middle School offers many summer camps such as cheerleading, volleyball, football, and soccer giving students access to more activities instead of having to find ways to stay interested.
Florida Department of Education requires that middle schools like Deerlake take one semester of physical education each year. This is put in place to urge children to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical activity and fitness.
Another huge issue associated with childhood obesity stems from the lack of nutritious meals.
In schools, many students rely on the cafeteria for breakfast and lunch that is provided by the National School Lunch Program, but without that in the summer students are not making healthy food choices.
Danielle Miller, owner of Fitness Pro, said other than participating in physical activities foods with low nutritional value are a huge problem.
“I think one of the biggest issues aside from inactivity in children is soda and juice intake,” Miller said. “Many children drink a significant amount of soda and juice. Even if kids are active this is horrible for their health and weight control. Cutting this out and choosing options like water and milk can show a difference in kids’ weight almost immediately depending on how much they were drinking.”
Although students are indulging in nutrient poor foods there are students that will not have access to food this summer. Second Harvest has made it their mission to make sure they are engaging the community by fighting against hunger.
Thirty- three percent of the people they serve are children and 1:4 struggle daily with hunger, according to Second Harvest.
Jim Croteau, Interim Chief Executive Officer, explained how the organization tackles the high demand for kids to have food in the summer by transporting food through different programs that they have.
“We contract with Elder Care Services, so that we have a balanced plate that we provide for the kids,”Croteau said. “Sometimes it’s fruit and a sandwich, sometimes it’s a hot meal, but it’s usually a sandwich and a fruit.”
Croteau said it is important to give children the opportunity to a nutritious meal because with school being out he understands not everyone can get their hands on healthy food choices.
“We find that more than half of the kids who are home in the summer don’t have access to food like they do during the year,” Croteau said.
Kim Bibeau, owner/founder and trainer at Sweat Therapy Fitness, recommends that to stop child obesity parents should incorporate a healthy lifestyle for the whole family.
Bibeau said kids are more likely to have fun if it doesn’t feel like a chore.
“It’s natural for parents to consider organized sports as an option for fighting obesity,” said Bibeau. “However, it’s important to remember that competitive sports aren’t best for all children. I think back to when I was struggling with my weight as a child, I wasn’t competitive or interested in sports. I was only going to move my body if it was fun for me. This same principal is true for children and adults, it’s easier to adhere to an exercise routine if it doesn’t feel like “work.” Instead play active games to get kids moving like “sharks and minnows” in the pool, jumping rope or roller skating.”
Child obesity is best combatted by creating healthy families, said Bibeau, getting everyone involved and making it fun.