YMCA of Greater Erie

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and while the dangers of childhood obesity are well chronicled, many families need support changing their children’s habits with the ultimate goal of improving health. That’s why the YMCA of Greater Erie — a leading community-based organization dedicated to improving health—wants families to understand the dangers of childhood obesity and ways to reverse course through improved eating habits and increased physical activity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has more than tripled in children and adolescents over the past 30 years. Today, obesity affects one in six children and one in three are overweight, which poses greater risks for a number of health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and some cancers.  Here in Pennsylvania nearly 40 percent of all children are considered overweight or obese, according to Erie Vital Signs. Locally, the county rate for both obese and healthy weight children in grades K through 6 dropped below the state average for children in those grades, but surpassed the state rates for overweight children. Approximately 1 in 2 young children in the county are overweight or obese.

A family that changes together gets healthy together—building a culture of health that helps families adopt healthy habits is key to reducing childhood obesity rates. Once a family gets the proper education and support when it comes to weight-related risks, they can work together to incorporate healthy eating habits and more physical activity and into their daily routines.

Additionally, if families don’t know how to get started, reaching out to your health care provider or organizations like the Y that provide support are great first steps.

The following tips are some great ways to incorporate healthier eating habits and more physical activity and into your daily family routine:

  • Eat & Drink Healthy: Make water the drink of choice (supplemented by age-appropriate servings of low-fat milk) and make it easy for everyone to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables by offering two or three colorful options at every meal. Feel free to mix and match fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables to provide variety. Place a full pitcher of water on the table during meals, and allow children to pour their own water.
  • Play Every Day/Go Outside: Kids should have at least an hour a day of unstructured play outside (when possible) and break a sweat at least three times a week by getting 20 minutes or more of vigorous physical activity. Join your children in games that get your hearts pumping and bodies moving.
  • Get Together: Eat as a family as frequently as possible. Involve kids in meal planning, preparation and clean up. In addition, adults should take a break from electronics and spend one-to-one time each day with their kids, enjoying one another’s company.
  • Reduce Recreational Screen Time: Time spent in front of a television, computer, tablet, cell phone or video games should be limited to two hours or less per day. Make a family plan to reduce screen time at home (i.e. turn off screens during meals, keep a chart, go for a walk after a meal).
  • Sleep Well: Kids and adults need to keep a regular sleep schedule; go to bed and rise from bed within 1 hour of the same time every day. Kids are growing and need 10-12 hours of healthy sleep per night and seven to eight hours for adults.

In addition to being healthy at home, there is a need to maintain healthy habits while attending out-of-school programs. To create healthy environments for all children the YMCA of Greater Erie has implemented Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards in our before and after school programs, summer camps and Meals for Kids programs. Our goal is to make the healthy choice the easy choice for your child while he or she is in our care.

To foster your child’s health, the Y strives to:

  • Provide a fruit and/or vegetable at all meals and snacks.
  • Only provide low-fat milk and water as beverages.
  • Serve meals and snacks family-style.
  • Set limits on screen time.
  • Provide daily physical activity (outdoors when possible).
  • Promote and support exclusive breastfeeding for infants.
  • Adults model healthy food and beverage choices and active play.
  • Provide parent/caregiver education to encourage healthy behaviors at home.

Learn more about how to reduce your child’s risk for obesity at http://www.ymca.net/healthy-family-home/