As a nation, we know we’re getting fatter. But a relatively new
population is seeing a growth in girth: the nation’s children.
According to the Surgeon General, 60 percent of Americans are
overweight, and 300,000 die each year from related illnesses. In a
report issued Dec. 14, the Surgeon General warned that the nation’s
obesity epidemic has gotten so bad it soon may overtake tobacco as
the leading cause of preventable deaths.
Until recently, the percentage of children who qualified as
was not alarming, not even reaching 5 percent. However, over the
last decade, the numbers have steadily risen, and now nearly 13
percent of children are overweight.
As a nation, we know we’re getting fatter. But a relatively new population is seeing a growth in girth: the nation’s children.
According to the Surgeon General, 60 percent of Americans are overweight, and 300,000 die each year from related illnesses. In a report issued Dec. 14, the Surgeon General warned that the nation’s obesity epidemic has gotten so bad it soon may overtake tobacco as the leading cause of preventable deaths.
Until recently, the percentage of children who qualified as “obese” was not alarming, not even reaching 5 percent. However, over the last decade, the numbers have steadily risen, and now nearly 13 percent of children are overweight.
There’s no big mystery: People eat more calories than they work off, too often passing up fruits and vegetables in favor of super-sized junk foods. The difficulty is getting people, even concerned parents, to do something about it as warning after warning from health officials has gone unheeded.
Nick Povio, gymnastics coordinator for the City of Gilroy, said activity level is a big factor in weight gain or loss.
“I’m 33 years old, and I eat what I want to and don’t gain weight,” he said. “The secret is, I’m always moving. And the younger you are, generally, the higher metabolism you have, so it’s much easier for kids.”
Pavio said he thinks kids can enjoy snack foods in moderation, but they need to learn how eat healthy and how to keep their bodies fit.
“It’s a simple equation: If a child consumes 2,500 calories a day, but only burns off 2,000, the bulge is going to begin,” he said. “If they get up from the couch, away from the video games, for some time every day doing something they enjoy, they’re not going to have a problem.”
And the answer to getting kids off the couch? Povio said the answer to that can be simple, too: Have them try a variety of activities if they don’t enjoy the traditional sports, like basketball and baseball, but find something the kids don’t view as “exercise,” but pleasure.
“My philosophy is, it must be something fun. Then, they’ll continue to do it as long as they can,” he said.
South Valley communities are recognizing the need to provide programs for kids who are looking for something different, as well as for adults. Povio’s gymnastics classes – for ages 18 months to adult – are offered through Gilroy’s Community Services division.
“I’ve been doing this for 17 years,” he said. “Some of my coaches were my students years ago.”
Povio supervises 19 coaches who teach twice weekly classes, Tuesday/Thursday and Monday/Wednesday, and rates vary according to the age level, from $49 to $79 per month.
The City of Morgan Hill offers a variety of classes focusing on fitness and fun for practically every age level, including a “Mommy and Me” class, youth golf lessons and teen dance lessons. The programs are offered through its Park and Recreation department, which puts out a class offering schedule regularly.
The Surgeon General’s Dec. 14 report recommends community support as one aspect of the solution. Programs offered to the general public, without a private membership requirement, can be more enticing to some parents.
But some private health clubs are recognizing the need to get involved in promoting children’s fitness beyond their membership.
Gilroy Health and Fitness, on Church Street, has a new program for teens to help them focus on fitness.
“We want them to learn healthy eating habits that will stay with them,” said Heidi Sanchez, nutritionist and coordinator of the program. “Our goal is to teach these kids now what it means to have a healthy lifestyle so that they won’t end up being overweight and obese, with the chronic diseases that are associated with the condition.”
Diabetes and high blood pressure are just two conditions linked to excessive weight.
Sanchez said the after-school program, a creation of the City of Gilroy and the gym, is offered to kids ages 13 to17 on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
“Each day we have an hour of physical activity, and on Tuesdays we have a half-hour nutrition discussion, and on Thursdays we have a healthy snack related to what we discussed on Tuesday,” she said. “An important part of the program is not just the actual activity but getting the information about a healthy lifestyle to the kids.”
The physical activity portion of the program usually focuses on one particular sport or activity, like softball, basketball or soccer, for a period of time, teaching rules of the sport as well as physical ability.
The program, which usually brings in 10 to 12 teens each day, came about because of the decrease in physical education and sports programs in the district, Sanchez said.
“This is our first year, so we’ll evaluate the program to decide where to go at the end of the year,” she said.
The program runs through the school year.