Childhood obesity has definitely entered the consciousness of Americans in recent years.
Childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years, according to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s website, www.cdc.gov. The website reports obese youth are more likely to have high risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, bone and joint problems, and sleep apnea. Obese youth are more likely to continue to struggle with their weight in adulthood and be more at risk for health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis, said the website.
But where there is a problem, there are individuals in communities who work to find a solution.
St. Peters has actively campaign led by First Lady Michelle Obama. At the , there is a program to help get kids in shape.
The YMCA offers a program called Kid Fitness that seeks to build health conscious youth who turn into health conscious adults. Adam Rush—a personal trainer for the YMCA and a St. Peter’s resident—works as an instructor with Kid Fitness, a year around program.
“One of the things we stress here is fun,” Rush said. “It has to be fun for them. If it’s not fun, then they’re not going to do it. I know in the school system they’re talking about cutting back on physical education programs. They think it’s not important but it is. I think it’s key for us to get children in here at a younger age and promote a healthier lifestyle.”
Kid Fitness—a once-a-week program for middle-school-age children—offers instruction in both exercise and nutrition. Rush said instructors talk with the kids in the program on limiting their intake of fast food and on eating meals that are nourishing to the body. Health as a part of family life is also stressed.
“We also want to encourage them to have a meal with their parents or sit down with their brothers and sisters,” she said. “It can make a difference if the parents are involved in the physical activity. It’s key.”
The program tries to form healthy habits that last a lifetime. Rush said he would like to see programs evolve for children who are even younger than those in Kid Fitness.
“Right now, we’d like to start educating younger,” he said. “We’d like to get it out to 6-, 7-, and 8-year-old kids about how important it is to do physical activity and not just go home and watch TV. It’s always harder to change bad habits later in life.”
The participants in Kid Fitness are introduced to the concept of a warm up and a core workout, said Rush. The classes start out with activity common to a physical education class such as shooting baskets or kicking a soccer ball around. Rush said after the warm-up the class concentrates to core strength and stability.
In the strength phase of the workout participants perform balance exercises on an exercise medicine ball, run on a treadmill, and lift weights, said Rush. The instructors teach the correct technique in these exercises.
Most of the kids in the class are new to fitness. Rush said the key to training beginners is patience on the part of the trainer and creating an environment that equals fun for the participant.
“We want them to go to their parents and say, ‘Mom, let’s go to the YMCA on Thursday night,’” he said. “Then it becomes a habit. As soon as it becomes a habit, that’s when we’ve won the battle.”