The Herald Bulletin

September 24, 2013

Moving children toward a healthier future

Programs teach families how to stay active and healthy

By Traci L. Moyer
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — ANDERSON — Just move.

That’s what Dr. Emi Bays wants children to do.

Bays, a pediatrician with St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital, is encouraging her patients to join the “Choose to Lose for Kids and Families.” The program, being offered by St.Vincent and partnered through the YMCA, teaches participants how to live a healthy lifestyle with weight management. The new program is tailored to the needs of children and teens, ages 8 to 18, costs $50 and kicks off on Oct. 1.

“I’m very excited about it,” Bays said of the program. “I really think it could be a great tool for motivating kids and for families to use.”

Community Hospital Anderson also offers a healthy lifestyle program for children 8 to 13 years and their caregivers called “Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity & Nutrition (We Can)” which, like Choose to Lose, focuses on being healthy and staying active.

We Can is free and offered twice a year with the next class starting Oct. 15, said Jenny Martin, nutrition coordinator at Community Hospital Anderson. Community’s program is a six-week class that is offered once a week on Tuesday nights.

“Obesity statistics are high and obesity is not going away,” said Martin.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents just within the last 30 years. Statistics also show that children between the ages of 6 and 19 years who were obese has increased from between 5 and 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2010.

Bays said she sees children in her clinic every day who have struggled with bad habits that tend to snowball. She said in order to be healthy, people should strive to combine being active with a balanced diet.

“I don’t think the problem is necessarily from not doing one or the other,” she said.

Bays suggests being active for an hour a day by doing chores, taking a walk and even playing the Wii — all of which are better than sitting around and doing nothing.

“You have to take things gradually and work it up in levels,” she said. “I think one of the big things in terms of nutrition is portion sizes. A lot of times we do not realize what a portion size is.”

Some of Bays’ daily recommendations include limiting screen time, which she defines as television, computers and handheld devices, to less than two hours a day, consuming no more than 8 ounces of juice and eliminating sugary drinks and consuming only low-fat dairy products.

“It’s a lot for families to think about and why it is so overwhelming,” she said.

Both of the programs offer activities and nutritional information to the participants to help them make healthy choices.

Martin said to be healthy both children and caregivers must be involved. She said some of the activities of the program include learning how to exercise with little to no equipment and hip hop classes that are taught by local pediatricians. She said participants learn how to get creative and make being healthy fun by including such activities as creating obstacle courses using household items like brooms and jump ropes.

“If you teach just the child, that does not solve the problem,” Martin said. “We can’t educate just the child. We have to have the caregivers’ involvement to solve the problem of child obesity.”

Like Traci L. Moyer on Facebook and follow her @moyyer on Twitter, or call 648-4250.