EAST LONGMEADOW, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Health officials are warning that school closures during the coronavirus crisis could increase childhood obesity.

That's why Western Mass News spoke to a local pediatrician to get the answers on what you should be doing to help increase your child's activity rate ahead of the summer months.

While school is still in session - many students are lacking daily activities like recess and gym class and this is all while spending a lot more time at their computers.

"Especially with the lock-down because people aren’t getting out as much. The weather is just starting to turn well. I put a lot of times in the lock-down [when] the weather wasn’t so great [and] kids weren’t getting outside and playing," said Redwood Pediatric's Primary Care Pediatrician Dr. John Kelley from East Longmeadow.

Kelley told Western Mass News that with children home, they are in environments where it is tempting to snack all day long.

That's why experts are warning these factors could add up to unhealthy weight gain in children.

"Studies have shown the pattern over summer, is kids tend to gain more weight. Probably for a lot of the same reasons. They’re not in a structured environment and they might not be getting outside and playing with as much structure as they had in school," Kelley explained.

Although this is a reoccurring problem - with distance learning due to coronavirus, it increased the 2-3 month period of being at home to more than 5 months.

"The concern and time will tell if that is the case - that we could see a pattern of even more weight gain in kids when we look at the whole population," Kelley noted.

That's why Kelley has some advice on how you can help get your kids back on track.

"Something I’ve noticed is that a lot of kids aren’t on the same routine schedule, so I’ve been trying to encourage my patients to have their kids pretend that they’re in school. Going to bed at their normal bedtime. Getting up at their normal time. Doing three meals a day instead of multiple snacks. Trying to keep the routine as normal as possible," Kelley explained.

Additionally - making sure you're stocking the shelf with fresh produce rather than processed food.

"Prepared food. Fast food, the chips, and the cookie aisle are bare than I’ve ever seen it before. I think it’s kind of a quick fix easy to make meals," Kelley said.

Kelley also suggested keeping a close eye on your kids and asking for help if you spot signs of unhealthy weight gain.

"Fortunately we do have a clinic to refer people to get detailed nutritional advice and exercise advice with a pediatric endocrinologist at Baystate Medical center. The whole goal is to try to prevent diabetes and diabetes is the real risk with childhood obesity.

Copyright 2020 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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