Television, video games and less physical education, along with poor nutrition is a recipe for obesity and chronic illness later in life. In the past 30 years, the percentage of obese children has tripled, from 5 percent in 1980 to 17 percent today. Today's generation also is suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension.
“They have been learning different ways to be active,” said Cassie Ebert, exercise specialist at ETMC. “They're learning how to play. It sounds strange, but a lot of kids don't know how to play anymore.”
The children participated in the Changing Courses program — an activity at ETMC's Behavioral Health Center, which typically is offered to leadership and athletic clubs, youth groups, scout groups, colleges and churches.
Kids In Motion organizers said the course is a good blend of physical activity, problem solving and team building, as the children identify with peers through a unique exercise. It's an activity that often is used to help children at the behavioral health center find positive ways to cope with problems.
“The mission is to teach critical-thinking skills, thinking outside the box and problem solving,” said Jim Whitaker, activity therapy coordinator for ETMC Behavioral Health Center. “They're also learning to trust.”
The weeklong, half-a-day camp also taught proper nutrition to the children, using Nutrition Detectives, a program developed by renowned physician Dr. David Katz, which emphasizes five rules for healthy eating.
They include reading labels, reading ingredient lists, watching for partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup and choosing whole grains.
“It teaches them to look at two different items and pick the better one,” Ms. Ebert said. “We don't teach bad food, good food — just better choices.”
It was Stori Ferguson's first time at Kids In Motion. The 10-year-old said she wanted to learn new things. She and her peers are taking an interest in reading nutrition labels, such as one for a granola bar, which took her by surprise.
“I thought they were healthy, but then we looked at the back,” she said, noting the high sugar content. “I'm telling my family about what I'm learning.”
Stori is developing healthful habits by playing outside with friends and drinking a lot of water.
“It's real important because you want to be taller and be healthy,” she said.
During last week's Kids In Motion session, he learned that Texas Ranger Josh Hamilton does Pilates. It was a cool bonus for him.
“He's my favorite left-handed athlete,” he pointed out.
Davis also is surprised by what you may find when reading nutrition labels.
“I used to think fruit rollups were good for you because my teacher said they were because they're made of fruit. But it's like candy,” he said.
Davis already is thinking about the consequences of his eating and activity habits.
“If you are healthy when you're a kid, you'll be healthy when you're a grown-up,” he said.