Children in UAE can gain up to 6kg of fat during summer break, experts say

Experts said the extra weight comes as a result of the absence of structure in school pupils’ free time.

Experts say children are more likely to gain weight during the summer due to an absence of structure in their free time. Sarah Dea / The National
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ABU DHABI // Weeks of freedom from long school days, homework and exams may come as a welcome break for children but not for their waistlines, and experts say youngsters can put on as much as six kilograms of fat during the summer break.

They said the extra weight came as a result of the absence of structure in school pupils’ free time.

“It varies from one child to another,” said Rahma Abdulla Ali, a clinical dietician at Abu Dhabi’s Burjeel Hospital. “In general, the children’s routine during summer changes drastically from when being at school.

“Eating habits, sleep timing, meal timing and less physical activity – all these play a huge role in causing children to gain weight during summer break. We do see weight gain that could go up from 5kg to 6kg during that time.”

Children who are overweight or obese are likely to gain more weight faster, said Ms Ali.

“During the summer break, children tend to stay up later than usual and sleep more during the day,” she said. “This will hamper the meal timing that their body is used to.”

An increase in screen time is also a huge contributory factor, said Ms Ali. “Having meals in front of the TV also is one of the most favourite things for children to do,” she said.

At school, pupils follow a set routine, only have their school meals and snacks during designated breaks and attend physical education classes.

Ms Ali said parents should show more discipline with their children during the holiday.

“To ensure that your children don’t face all this, parents should set specific time for meals, create activities that involve sports or exercise and make right choices of food for their children.

Dubai nutritionist Rashi Chowdhary said the summer holiday could have a far-reaching effect on a child’s health. “Children gain body mass twice as fast during the summer holidays as compared to during the school year,” she said.

Dr Sudarshan Shetty, a specialist in paediatrics at Medeor 24X7 Hospital, Abu Dhabi, said the summer break could be a challenging time for children.

He advised parents to limit screen time to two hours maximum a day and not to vary the time a child gets up or goes to bed by more than one hour than they would do during school term.