Get Movin’ offers fun ways for kids to get fit

It’s free, it’s fun, and it just might save your kid’s life.

Last summer, 1,200 area children signed up for Get Movin’, Snohomish County’s 3-year-old, incentive-based exercise program. They swam, walked, bounced, jump-roped and gardened their way to fun rewards like climbing wall passes and fair tickets.

Now they’re less likely to suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

Get Movin’ is growing – organizers hope to enroll more than 3,000 kids this summer. Unfortunately, that’s a drop in the bucket. An alarming 20 percent of public school students surveyed by the Snohomish Health District in 2000 landed in the top 15th percentile of national norms for weight.

Television, video games, fast food and apathetic role models have combined to make childhood obesity a national epidemic. Scrapped P.E. classes, the ubiquity of computers and video games, irresponsible advertising and changing societal values have been blamed as well.

There are a whole lot of problems. And a simple solution: exercise. That’s the beauty behind the Get Movin’ movement. It’s hassle free.

To participate in Get Movin’, children must be active 30 minutes a day, five days a week, for four months. It’s a practical program with reasonable expectations. And kids love it.

“It’s the rewards,” said Caroline Brown, Senior Fitness and Health Director at the Marysville Family YMCA. “And it gives kids something to do all summer. A parent doesn’t ever want to hear, ‘I’m bored.’”

If your child becomes obese, his or her physical health will suffer, perhaps seriously. At the same time, growing up overweight often leads to low self-esteem. Inactive kids are generally less energetic, less happy and less motivated than their peers.

What makes matters worse is this: Kids from low-income families are especially at risk. Nutritious, healthy foods are expensive. Youth activities like sports leagues can be pricey, too. If their children don’t exercise, staving off childhood obesity may be hard for low-income parents – as if they didn’t have enough worries already.

Get Movin’ costs nothing. In fact, the program rewards kids who live up to their pledge. It’s a great fit for families at all income levels, and it’s not a handout.

You can register your child for Get Movin’ beginning Saturday. Kick-off events at the Everett Mall, the Seattle Premium Outlets food court near Marysville and the Lynnwood Athletic Complex run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will feature free fitness screenings and free t-shirts. Look for more details in Friday’s Herald.

Help your children get movin’. When they slim down and start smiling more often, they’ll have you to thank.

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