How will Huntington fight childhood obesity?

Oct 22, 2013

The Huntington YMCA is leading the charge in one area of the battle with obesity that has been ignored in the Huntington area, childhood obesity.

Credit Clark Davis

  The Huntington YMCA along with Cabell Huntington Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital and Cabell County Schools has developed a program called kids in motion. The new partnership will lead the brand new Kid Fit program that the YMCA and hospital officials hope is the next step in the fight against childhood obesity in the city.

Caroline Woodward was one of a handful of kids on hand Tuesday to demonstrate the equipment. The 6-year old said she enjoys it all.

“I actually enjoy everything, its fun and you can be healthy and be strong and that’s really it,” Woodward said.

The program will allow students to exercise at the new YMCA building which houses exercise equipment that fits the interests of children. What that means is, instead of just running on a treadmill or lifting weights like adults the children play interactive games with lights and video screens while also constantly moving.

Jamie Berry is the Health and Wellness Director for the YMCA and the director of the Kids in Motion Program. He said the program fills a void in the fight against obesity.

“We are trying to fill that and we’ll partner with Huntington’s kitchen and do some educative classes there and we hope to involve the parents as much as possible and with the nutrition education and Huntington’s kitchen that’s going to be where the family is oriented,” Berry said.

Some of the activities the kids will use are things like iDance which is similar to Dance Dance Revolution and the T-wall, where players try to quickly touch surfaces as they light up in various sequences. For each activity, the kids will compete with each other, as well as previous scores, in order to earn points. George Smailes is the Executive Director of the Huntington YMCA.

Credit Clark Davis

“What we’re wanting to see is children becoming active, we’re wanting to see the families learning nutritional concepts to use with their children and as they grow up because it’s this generation that’s going to make a difference in the future,” Smailes said.

They’ll start with a pilot program that will run from November 4th to December 20th. They hope that gets the kinks worked out so they can begin a 12-week program starting January 6th and running through the end of March. At the same time they’ll offer a Family Fit program like the Kid Fit program that will incorporate the parents. During the program they’ll keep track of the kids’ weight, body mass index and body fat percentage to measure progress so they know how much attention to give to a particular child.

People like Bennie Thomas from the Cabell County School board say this is an important step for the community.

“The better it catches on, if it grows we can add to it as time goes on and involve more kids and reduce that stigma of the obesity and that overweight population in our younger people,” Thomas said.

Participation isn’t free, but they hope to soon offer scholarships for those that can’t afford to pay YMCA fees. Participants in the program and their parents or guardians will receive important nutrition education through grocery store tours and classes at Huntington’s kitchen. Berry said their mission is one of vital importance.

“Parents need to take advantage of it because schools can’t offer this, not every child is involved in sports and so kids play and love video games, well we’ve got video games, but they’ve got to be moving in order to play those games,” Berry said.

The programs are for kids ages 5-14.