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9/11 Special Column: Teaching children to live healthy everyday

Introducing the YMCA 5210 program

By TRACEY CARLTON

Fitness nutrition specialist with On-Point Nutrition

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How many fruits and vegetables do you eat a day? How much time do you spend in front of a computer, mobile device, or television screen a day? How much physical activity do you fit in each day? How many sugary drinks do you consume daily?

Now, think about your child, grandchild, young relative, or another child or adolescent with whom you might be close. Are they eating enough healthy foods, engaging in daily physical activity, and staying away from sugary drinks?

With an abundance of processed foods, sweets, video games, television, and mobile-device and computer activities, it may not be too hard to believe that one in every three children between the ages of 2 and 19 in the United States is overweight or obese, according to the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity. That is a staggering statistic, especially when you think of the health consequences associated with such excess body fat in obese children and adolescents:

•Increased risk of heart disease, including risk factors of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and abnormal glucose tolerance

•Type-2 diabetes

•Some forms of arthritis and cancers

•Asthma

•Sleep apnea

•Lower quality of life when measuring physical, emotional, educational, and social well-being

•Lower self-esteem

•Depression

•Eating disorders

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a commonly used tool to measure an individual's weight in relation to his or her height. Children and adolescents with a body mass index between the 5th and 85th percentiles are considered to have a healthy weight, according to the First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Initiative. Children and adolescents with BMI between the 85th and 94th percentiles are considered overweight, and those youth whose gender-specific BMI is at or above the 95th percentile are considered obese. Although BMI is not an exact tool for calculating a person's percentage of body fat, it is a starting point in measuring for healthy weight. A medical professional should perform a clinical assessment in order to assess for other health and development markers associated with weight. To calculate your child or teen's BMI, visit the Centers for Disease Control at http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/.

While not every child without proper nutrition or exercise is overweight or obese, there are health and developmental concerns that still exist when a child or adolescent is not taught to live a healthy lifestyle. It is never too late, young or old, to learn how to live healthy every day, and the Greater West Point Family YMCA is ready and committed to teach families how to eat well and fit physical activity into their daily lives.

The 5210 program teaches children what it means to live healthy every day. Through interactive lessons and take-home activities to complete with parents, children learn with their families healthy behaviors while having fun. The numbers 5210 form the foundation of the program:

5 = Five servings of fruits and vegetables each day

2 = Two hours or less of screen time daily

1 = One hour or more of physical activity each day

0 = Zero sugary drinks

As a fitness nutrition specialist with On-Point Nutrition, I am proud to serve as the 5210 program instructor for the Greater West Point Family YMCA. The sessions will take place every Wednesday for eight weeks, starting this fall. Two different sessions will take place each Wednesday with age-appropriate activities and lessons:

•Pre-K through 3rd grade from 6-6:25 p.m.

•4th grade and up from 6:30-7:30 p.m.

During each session, children and adolescents will learn healthy behaviors associated with nutrition and exercise. Participants will learn through activities and discussion a variety of topics, including figuring out food labels, exercising as a family, determining serving sizes and healthy foods, building a healthy meal, why drinking water is important, and how exercise affects the body. Each session will end with an exercise segment appropriate for the participants' ages and abilities.

It is the goal of the YMCA that parents and families become involved with their children's lessons by completing take-home activities together, reviewing what they learn during each session, and carrying out the healthy behaviors promoted by the YMCA and its 5210 program.

Teaching children and adolescents how to take care of their bodies when they are young will allow them to better take care of themselves as they age through adopting a lifestyle of healthy living.

For more information on the 5210 program and how your child and you can participate, call the Greater West Point Family YMCA at 804-843-3300.

Tracey Carlton is a Fitness Nutrition Specialist certified through the International Sports Sciences Association, and is the owner of On-Point Nutrition, which offers both online and face-to-face nutrition coaching to meet your individual weight, performance, and health goals. She also is employed by the Greater West Point Family YMCA, providing instruction for its 5210 youth nutrition program. Feel free to e-mail your questions or nutrition topics of interest to tcarlton@on-pointnutrition.com. You can find On-Point Nutrition on Facebook or at http://www.on-pointnutrition.com.