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Camp Jump Start: Effects of a Residential Summer Weight-Loss Camp

Jean Huelsing, RNa, Nadim Kanafani, MDb, Jingnan Mao, MSc, Neil H. White, MD, CDEb,c

Objective: Residential weight-loss camps offer an opportunity for overweight and obese children to lose weight in a medically safe, supervised, supportive environment. The purpose of this report is to describe short-term outcomes in 76 children participating in a 4- or 8-week residential weight-loss camp for children and adolescents.

Patients and Methods: The camp program enrolled obese 10- to 18-year-old adolescents. The program consisted of structured and nonstructured physical activities and group educational sessions covering nutrition, physical fitness, and self-esteem. A diet plan of 3 balanced meals and 2 snacks per day was prepared under the supervision of a registered dietitian. Participants had height, weight, and blood pressure measured and performed a 1-mile run at maximum effort on an outdoor track.

Results: For all campers, statistically significant (P < .0001) reductions were observed for BMI, BMI z score, systolic blood pressure, body weight, and 1-mile run times. Compared with campers in the 4-week session, campers in the 8-week session had greater reductions in BMI, BMI z score, body weight, and systolic blood pressure. Multivariate analysis revealed that gender was a significant predictor for reduction in body weight, BMI, and BMI z score, all of which decreased more in boys than in girls. Conclusions: This report adds to the evidence that residential weight-loss camps are highly effective in improving measures of health and fitness among overweight and obese children and adolescents. Additional study is needed on the long-term effects of such camps in terms of weight maintenance, behavior change, and metabolic and health outcomes.

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