YMCA helps families avoid childhood obesity

YMCA helps families avoid childhood obesity

CLEVELAND, Ohio – As the West Shore Cleveland YMCA’s Wellness Director and mother of two young children, Erin Troy knows how difficult it can be to make sure families maintain healthy habits.

“It’s a battle,” admitted Troy, who is also a personal training specialist at Westlake Y. She said about her son Robert, 6, and daughter Sydney, 2.

She also knows the consequences of not eating right and not getting enough exercise.

“Childhood obesity is an epidemic,” Troy said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five children is considered obese, with a BMI above 30. BMI is the ratio of height to weight. The healthy range is between 18 and 25.

Being overweight can increase your risks of asthma, sleep apnea, joint problems, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

“These are chronic diseases that we should only see in the elderly,” Troy said, adding that the trend was “terrifying.”

Troy added that having these problems in childhood determines healthy patterns for the rest of their lives and shortens life expectancy.

“Childhood diabetes does not go away,” Troy said. “It’s a lifelong disease.”

To highlight the need for good nutrition and physical activity, September has been recognized as National Childhood Obesity Month.

Good habits begin at home, according to Troy, and the YMCA can play a role in helping parents promote healthy choices.

“It’s not just about the kids, it’s about the families,” Troy said.

Each Y branch offers unique opportunities, from Iron Kids fitness classes in North Royalton to outdoor hiking at French Creek Y in Avon.

Many locations have Childwatch programs, where children supervise playtime while their parents exercise.

Troy noted that providing the body with the right things is vital to getting the energy needed for activity.

Y Branches have pre- and after-school programs where children get nutritious snacks.

West Park Y principal Kelly Williams oversees the Y Club’s after-school program, where kids get help with their homework — and a snack.

“We’re trying to make something creative,” Williams said. One afternoon, the kids made edible artwork using graham crackers and cream cheese colored in blue food colours. The weekly menu also offers applesauce and fruit cups.

The kids said their favorite healthy foods include strawberries, apples, carrots, and broccoli.

One of the children presented “zucchini”. “It turns into a pickle. I looked it up on the internet.”

It is important for adults to set a good example when it comes to healthy eating and offering fresh fruits and vegetables at an early age.

Troy suggested, “If they saw you eating broccoli, they might as well eat broccoli.”

It is also important to avoid foods that contain a lot of fat, salt, and sugar.

Troy admitted that there are many circumstances in our society that make it difficult for families to make the right choices.

Troy said parents are busier than ever, which makes it tempting to rely on fast foods or processed meals.

Commercials advertise a lot of unhealthy products for children. Screen time consumes hours that can be devoted to physical activity.

Even schools have reduced the time available to exercise. Troy said her son takes physical education classes once every three weeks.

Fitness modeling is also important. Troy participates in extreme sports and long-distance running, including 100-mile marathons. Her husband, Jim, is a professional golf coach at Windmill Golf Center, and their son is interested in the sport.

When it comes to eating, Troy recommended engaging kids in making good choices by explaining how to build the right foods for their bodies.

“They are not stupid,” she said. “Let them know why they should eat it.”

Gardening is a great way to set the table with fresh foods, while also providing outdoor exercise. A visit to a U-pick fruit farm is another option.

There are many websites that offer healthy and kid-friendly recipes.

When it comes to these experiences, the earlier the better, Troy urged.

“You paved the way for your childhood,” Troy said. “Let them know what it feels like to raise their heart rate or sweat.”

Information on fitness and other programs can be found at www.clevelandymca.org.

Information from the Centers for Disease Control is available at www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/index.html.

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