Children's residential weight-loss programs can work: A prospective cohort study of short-term outcomes for overweight and obese children

Paul J. Gately, Carlton B. Cooke, Julian H. Barth, Bridgette M. Bewick, Duncan Radley, Andrew J. Hill

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    106 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective. The evidence base for child obesity treatment is weak. Children's weight-loss camps, despite their popularity, have not been properly evaluated. This study evaluated the effectiveness of a residential weight-loss camp program for overweight and obese children. Methods. A total of 185 overweight children (mean age: 13.9 years) enrolled in 1 of 4 consecutive programs between 1999 and 2002 (intervention group) were compared with 94 children of similar ages who were not camp attendees, ie, 38 overweight children and 56 normal-weight children. The intervention group attended a 6-week (maximum) summer residential weight-loss camp. The program included a daily schedule of six 1-hour, skill-based, fun, physical activity sessions, moderate dietary restriction, and group-based educational sessions. All children were assessed for body weight, height, and other anthropometric measures, blood pressure, aerobic fitness, self-esteem, and selected sports skills. Results. Campers, who stayed for a mean of 29 days, lost 6.0 kg, reduced their BMI by 2.4 units, and reduced their BMI SD scores by 0.28. Fat mass decreased significantly (from 42.7 to 37.1 kg), whereas fat-free mass did not change. In contrast, both comparison groups gained weight during this period. Camp attendees also showed significant improvements in blood pressure, aerobic fitness, and self-esteem. Longer durations of stay were associated with greater improvements in outcomes. Conclusions. In the short term at least, this weight-loss program was effective across a range of health outcomes. Ongoing research is examining the maintenance of these improvements. Future research should investigate whether benefits can be generalized across weight-loss camps and how the intervention can be adapted to nonresidential, term-time settings.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)73-77
    Number of pages5
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2005


    • Aerobic fitness
    • Blood pressure
    • Child obesity
    • Fat mass
    • Physical activity
    • Self-esteem
    • Weight-loss camp


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