Objective: To identify critical periods in the variation in body composition during a school year and determine possible causes.
Methods: A total of 363 boys and girls aged between 10 and 14 years participated in the study. Before and after the Winter Holidays (WIH) and National Holidays (NAH) (July and September, respectively), measurements were taken of body weight, body fat percentage, waist perimeter, time spent on physical activity and hours of sleep in order to determine the variations. The normality of the data was confirmed and the means were compared with an alpha significance level of p<0.05.
Results: The school children increased in weight by 600 g and 510 g in the NAH and WIH, respectively (p<0.0001), and their body fat percentage was significantly increased during both periods (0.51%); however, the waist perimeter measurement saw no significant changes. It can also be seen that in NAH physical activity dropped by an important amount (-41 min, p<0.0001), though this did not occur in WIH. A significant increase in hours of sleep was also seen during the two holiday periods (∼1 to 2 hours/day).
Conclusion: It is concluded that both NAH and WIH can be considered critical periods due to the sharp increase in body weight and body fat percentage in the school children, where a possible cause is the reduction in time spent on physical activity.