Mississippi’s children have been affected by the changing lifestyle of inactivity and proliferation of fattening foods as have adults. There are sports programs for young people, but what about children not involved in sports? Two organizations are getting together to address this challenge. CarePlus Medical Clinics and Mississippi Sports Medicine are bringing FIT, a 90-day health education and weight loss program for kids, to the Jackson area. A pilot FIT program was successful and now the official kick-off program begins Aug. 19 and runs through Nov. 28 at the YMCA in Flowood. The sessions are held after school from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Additional sessions are planned for the spring and summer of 2014.
“We are excited to bring this vision to reality and to partner with Mississippi Sports Medicine,” says Sharee S. Lucius, director of physician marketing for the Southern Division of CarePlus. “It’s a one-of-a-kind program for kids and families in our community.”
Evans Allen, program director with Mississippi Sports Medicine and a long time advocate for children’s fitness programs, says there really isn’t anything in the area for kids who don’t play sports. “Times have changed. Now kids don’t play outside until mama yells to come home like we did,” he said. “Everyone wants to fight children’s obesity, and I’ve wanted to put something together for a while.”
Allen has coached children’s sports and has been involved with some training for kids at the YMCA. He also credits Jennifer Mooneyham of the Family Health Center for being a promoter of fitness programs for children.
He finds that many times parents aren’t educated about nutrition and exercise for children. “Parents want their children to be fit and many children get pushed into sports for that reason,” he said. “I’ve watched kids get out of cars for sports with fast food bags.”
The FIT program is a combination of diet, exercise, fun and games. The goal is to show parents and kids that by becoming more physically active and improving some basic eating habits they can improve the overall health of the whole family. There are 12 classes and parents must attend at least nine. Such things as meal planning and making smarter choices will be addressed.
“We use positive reinforcement and make it fun. At the end of 90 days, families can continue on with it,” Allen said. “We hope they will have family time at parks and not eat fast food.”
With that positive attitude, Allen says instructors will work with each child on his or her level and in different age groups. There will be no yelling; kids will get fit and leave with smiles on their faces. At the first session health care professionals will be available for individual screenings and measuring. Allen says that’s to provide some numbers for comparison at the beginning and end of the program. In the past few years, childhood obesity increased from seven to 18 percent in the six-to-11-year-old age group, and from five percent to 18 percent in the 12-to-19-year-old age group.
“Getting FIT is so important for the whole family,” Lucius said. “FIT includes fitness and nutrition education to improve the overall health of the whole family by showing the kids ways they can become more physically active and how to improve some basic eating habits. Our goal is healthier kids and parents.”
Allen is directing the FIT program, working with experienced performance coaches R.J. Barrett, Dan Burnham and Leslie Dukes. Allen began his career in Louisiana working with adults and has worked with velocity sports training. He enjoys working with fitness for children and is pleased with Mississippi Sports Medicine’s community involvement.
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