In the previous post, we mentioned that, contrary to what common sense might suggest, school-age children do not become more fit during the summer break. Instead, they often experience weight gain inappropriate for their growth stage, and are unable to shed those extra pounds when the fall term commences. The increase just carries over into the next year. As we also mentioned, quoting an upcoming article in the journal Obesity,
[…] weight gain over the summer school recess is particularly apparent for Hispanic and African American youth, and children already experiencing overweight.
The folksy saying, “Them as has, gets” referred in the Depression era to money, but it is equally true of fat cells. Children who were already at a disadvantage, whether from inherent genetic traits, perinatal circumstances, or environmental influence, tend to be more closely bound by inertia. They are overweight, and are destined to become even more overweight.
In much of America, premature summer vacation is in effect, but a bizarre and perverse type of vacation that strips away the usual seasonal opportunities for exercise. We don’t have team sports or water-based physical activities or hours-long hikes, not even the kind that result from trekking around a theme park all day.
Because of stay-at-home orders, except for rare circumstances, kids can’t play outside. We have even seen some over-enthusiastic rule enforcement, like the arrest of a Colorado father for playing catch with his six-year-old daughter in a public park.
As the authors of the Obesity article state,
[…] the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates all the risk factors for weight gain associated with summer recess.
If kids were not getting enough activity in ordinary times, the need for isolating and social distancing really puts the whipped cream on that hot-fudge sundae. Depending on where children live, there might possibly be a playground still open, but nobody is out there scrubbing down the swing chains or the monkey bars.
Faced with emergency conditions on every hand, which government bureau has the resources to worry about kids not getting enough exercise? The authors say,
As schools build their remote teaching capacity we should make physical education a priority. Where schools are sending home lesson plans for math and English, they could also send home lesson plans for physical activity…
There are several exercise programs designed for use by business travelers in hotel rooms and with limited gym equipment; such exercise programs could be adapted into at-home lesson plans. For schools that have the capacity to online stream classes, physical education teachers could stream exercise classes.
But what about the parents who are already stressed almost beyond endurance, who can’t escape from the noise that physically active kids inevitably make? What about the neighbors in the next apartment and downstairs, who are possibly sick and suffering already?
What about the already obese?
Returning to the “Them as has, gets” theme, let us spare a thought for another class of humans — the already obese. The Obesity authors say:
Individuals around the world with obesity are at high risk for severe complications of COVID-19. This may be due to the associated chronic diseases associated with obesity or due to the inflammatory and immunologic issues associated with obesity per se. In addition, patients with obesity may have increased viral shedding and be more resistant to effective vaccination. These issues and others mandate that we all conduct research to better understand the implications of COVID-19 in persons with obesity.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “COVID‐19 Related School Closings and Risk of Weight Gain Among Children,” Wiley.com, 03/30/20
Source: “Colorado Police Apologize…,” Newsweek.com, 04/08/20
Image by Jason Shultz/(CC BY-ND 2.0)