Preventing childhood obesity

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and the Marietta Family YMCA – a leading voice in youth development and healthy living-wants to help families in our community live better and help prevent childhood obesity by incorporating regular physical activity and healthy eating into their daily routine.

While a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows a small decline in childhood obesity rates among preschoolers in several states, there is still a long way to go. Nationally, one in eight preschoolers is obese, putting them at risk for many chronic diseases seen in adults such as high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

“At the Marietta Family YMCA, we want families to understand the lifetime benefits of eating right and getting physically active and those behaviors begin in the home,” said Kerry Jean Waddle, YMCA personal trainer. “If healthy habits are established at home they will carry over to when children are out of their parents’ care and that will dramatically help reduce obesity in our community.”

The following tips will not only help families live healthier together but help prevent childhood obesity:

Eat Healthy: Make water the drink of choice (supplemented by age-appropriate portions of 100 percent fruit juices and 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. Feel free to mix and match fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables to provide variety.

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.

Get Together: Eat as a family as frequently as possible with kids involved in meal preparation and clean up. In addition, adults should take a break from electronics and spend one-on-one time each day with their kids, enjoying one another’s company.

Reduce Screen Time: Time spent in front of a television, computer, tablet, cell phone or video games should be limited to two hours per day.

Sleep Well: Kids and adults need to keep a regular sleep schedule-10-12 hours per night for kids and seven to eight hours for adults.

In addition to being healthy at home, there is a need to maintain healthy habits while in school or at out-of-school programs. To create healthy environments in out-of-school programs, the Marietta Family YMCA is implementing Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards in our before and after school programs as part of the Y’s commitment to the Partnership for a Healthier America.

The steps taken by the Y include:

Provide a fruit and/or vegetable at all meals and snacks.

Only provide 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.

Have adult’s model healthy food and beverage choices and active play.

The Marietta Family YMCA offers a variety of programs and activities to keep children physically active, including youth sports (fall sports leagues include preschool soccer and basketball and school-age volleyball, flag football, dodgeball, and basketball), swim lessons and swim team, and a youth triathlon (Sept. 28). YMCA childcare programs incorporate physical fitness activities utilizing Y personal trainers leading activities and exercise classes and swimming at the Y during the after school childcare programs and swim coaching for the preschool programs. Families can spend time together playing basketball in the gym, swimming in the indoor pool, or for 12 years and older exercising in the fitness center.

To learn more about the Marietta Family YMCA’s youth programs, please contact the Y at (740) 373-2250 or visit our website at

Suzy Zumwalde is CEO of the Marietta Family YMCA.