Obesity rates for students increase during COVID-19, report says

Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 5:36 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 16, 2022 at 11:13 PM CDT
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - The number of students in Arkansas that are considered to be obese increased during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a public health group said in a new report Wednesday.

The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement said about 26% of students had a body mass index range considered to be obese during the 2020-21 school year. It was the highest increase since numbers were first collected in 2003 and were up nearly 23% from the same time a year before.

The percentage of Arkansas public school students with a BMI measurement in the obese range rose to a record 26% in the...

Posted by Arkansas Center for Health Improvement on Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Officials said in a media release that the increase was likely due to a sedimentary lifestyle due to the pandemic.

“Studies in other states have shown similar weight increases among children during the pandemic’s first wave. This is likely a result of decreases in physical activity and reduced access to healthy school meals as schools switched to virtual learning during times of high COVID-19 transmission,” ACHI Director of Analytics Mike Motley said.

Officials also said the percentage of students in the obese range, which includes a BMI of 30 or greater, had a greater increase among younger children than older children during the 2020-21 school year, compared to the previous school year.

However, there was an increase in the percentage of older students who were designated as obese when compared to younger students.

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