By Sharon Salyer Herald Writer
The YMCA is offering a free program to help overweight kids get more active this fall.
Up to 100 kids between the ages of 8 and 11 and their parents will be able to participate in the 12-week program, Actively Changing Lives Together, at all five YMCA branches in Snohomish County.
Children must be referred to the program by their doctor or medical clinic. A parent must participate with the child. Children must be significantly overweight — ranking in the top 15 percent of their peers for weight.
For example, an 8-year-old boy who is 4 feet and 3 inches tall and weighs 66 pounds or more would qualify for the program. An 8-year-old girl who is 4 feet and 4 inches tall and weighs 71 pounds or more can participate.
The goal is to give kids and parents the skills they can use to change habits, increase physical activity and make healthy food choices, said Caroline Brown, program coordinator.
The emphasis is on providing fun activities for both child and parent, she said, including Zumba, Tae Kwon Do, yoga and Drums Alive, a drumming and rhythmic exercise.
Discussions of food choices will be led by registered dietitians, covering topics such as portion control, how to read nutritional labels, the importance of eating breakfast and finding healthy choices at fast food restaurants.
The course will be offered at the YMCA branches in Everett, Mukilteo, Mill Creek, Marysville and Monroe.
Although the dates and times for the program at each site vary, classes generally kick off the second week in September.
Despite the continuing national attention on childhood obesity, it’s a problem that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, said Dr. Deb Nalty, a Monroe physician and member of the Monroe YMCA’s board.
The purpose of the ACT program is to provide families the support to make lifestyle changes, she said.
Recent research has shown that making small but steady lifestyle changes, such as being more active, “is better over the long term than a big, drastic change,” Nalty said.
The program was first offered in Snohomish County as a pilot project in 2006 at the Marysville YMCA.
Changes have been made in it, based on suggestions from participating parents and kids, Brown said.
For example, the course has one required 90-minute session each week, with 60 minutes of exercise and 30 minutes of nutritional information. It will include healthy snacks, such as a sandwich, a food wrap and fruit, Brown said.
This helps eliminate families having to rush to get home for a snack before the class and avoid the temptation of fast food afterward, she said.
Participation in a second weekly one-hour session, called ACT Club, though optional, is highly encouraged, Brown said, with offerings such as hip hop exercises, kickball and circuit training with weights.
The program is being offered through a $20,000 grant from United Way of Snohomish County. A class for 12- to 14-year-old children is being scheduled for early next year.
“We want people to have the experience of not just doing exercise but fun physical activity,” Brown said. “That’s really important. If it’s not fun, you’re not going to do it.”