The potential of a year-round school calendar for maintaining children's weight status and fitness: Preliminary outcomes from a natural experiment

R. Glenn Weaver, E. Hunt, A. Rafferty, Michael W. Beets, K. Brazendale, Gabrielle Turner-McGrievy, Russell R. Pate, Alberto Maydeu-Olivares, B. Saelens, S. Youngstedt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose: To evaluate the potential of a year-round school calendar (180-day school year distributed across 12 months) as an intervention compared to a traditional school calendar (180-day school year distributed across 9 months) for mitigating children's weight gain and fitness loss via a natural experiment. Methods: Height, weight, and cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) (i.e., Fitnessgram Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run) were measured in children (5–12 years old) in 3 schools (2 traditional, 1 year-round, n = 990 students, age = 8.6 ± 2.4 years, 53.1% male, 68.9% African American) from 1 school district. Structure (represented by the presence of a school day) was the independent variable. Changes in body mass index (BMI), age- and sex-specific BMI z-scores (zBMI), BMI percentile, percent of overweight or obese children, and CRF (Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run laps completed) were assessed for summer 2017 (May–August 2017), school year 2017/2018 (August 2017–May 2018), and summer 2018 (May–August 2018). Primary analyses examined the overall change in weight and CRF from summer 2017 until summer 2018 via multilevel mixed effects regression, with group (traditional vs. year-round calendar), time, and a group-by-time interaction as the independent variables. Secondary regression analyses estimated differences in change within and between groups during each time period, separately. Results: Year-round students gained less BMI (difference in ∆ = –0.44, 95% confidence interval (CI): –0.67 to –0.03) and less CRF (difference in ∆ = –1.92, 95%CI: –3.56 to –0.28) than students attending a traditional school overall. Compared with traditional students, during both summers, year-round students gained less BMI (summer 2017 difference in ∆ = –0.15, 95%CI: –0.21 to –0.08; summer 2018 difference in ∆ = –0.16, 95%CI: –0.24 to –0.07) and zBMI (summer 2017 difference in ∆ = –0.032, 95%CI: –0.050 to –0.010; summer 2018 difference in ∆ = –0.033, 95%CI: –0.056 to –0.009), and increased CRF (summer 2017 difference in ∆ = 0.40, 95%CI: 0.02–0.85; summer 2018 difference in ∆ = 0.23, 95%CI: –0.25 to 0.74). However, the opposite was observed for the school year, with traditional students gaining less BMI and zBMI and increasing CRF compared with year-round students (difference in BMI ∆ = 0.05, 95%CI: 0.03–0.07; difference in zBMI ∆ = 0.012, 95%CI: 0.005–0.019; difference in Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run laps ∆ = –0.43, 95%CI: –0.58 to –0.28). Conclusion: The year-round school calendar had a small beneficial impact on children's weight status but not CRF. It is unclear if this benefit to children's weight would be maintained because gains made in the summer were largely erased during the school year. Trajectories of weight and CRF gain/loss were consistent with the structured days hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Sport and Health Science
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019



  • Children
  • Intervention
  • Obesity
  • Overweight
  • Policy
  • School calendar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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