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Join the fight against childhood obesity

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
childhood obesity, fitness, exercise, type 2 diabetes, Exercise US. Project ACES

Many Americans are aware of the current obesity epidemic in the nation. A troublesome component of the epidemic is the alarming increase in childhood obesity. The epidemic has attracted the interest of a number of advocates for childhood health.

Len Saunders, a physical education teacher in New Jersey, has developed an annual event to combat the problem. Tomorrow, October 4, marks the fourth year of an event that he has promoted: the annual Exercise US (or Exercise United States day). Beginning at 8:00 am (EST.), schools in New Jersey will exercise from 8:00 - 8:15 a.m. When their prearranged time slot is over, schools in New York will begin their prepared exercise session from 8:15 - 8:30 am. Once an organized 15-minute time allotment ends, another location will pick up where the last school or organization left off. This pattern will continue for 10 hours until the last time slot is filled at 3:00 pm (PST.). Saunders notes that schools have been signing up for their 15 minute time slots since early May.

US News & World Report referred to the Exercise US program with this blurb: “In a unique attempt to fight childhood obesity and cuts being made to school physical education programs, elementary, middle, and high schools from New York to Hawaii and Alaska have signed on to a newfangled ‘fitness relay’ event.” You might check to see if any time slots are still available (link below) at this late date. If so, you might want to jump on the bandwagon and contact a local school or youth organization. Alternatively, try to organize a local event addressing obesity at some future date.

Another example of an anti-obesity program was launched by a group of Portland, Maine healthcare experts and businessmen in 2004. They launched their “Let’s Go!” program, which incorporates the 5-2-1-0 principles: at least 5 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, no more than two hours of TV (including games) per day, at least 1 hour of exercise per day, and 0 sugary drinks. To date, the community has invested about $3.7 million in the endeavor. The program is catching on. An independent telephone survey of 800 parents who were familiar with the program, 28% of children had adopted 5-2-1-0 behaviors compared to 22% in 2007.

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“Lets Go!” has expanded to approximately 345 schools; it also has been adopted by after-school programs, child-care centers, and medical practices throughout the state of Maine. Maine Health, a nonprofit medical group, which was involved in the formation of the program, has invested $500,000 and committed an additional $500,000 over the next five years.

Len Saunders notes that the current generation of children may be the first generation of children whose life expectancy may be shorter than their parents. With the rise in type 2 diabetes and other health related diseases associated with obesity, children need motivational techniques that get them to exercise. Saunders is extremely enthusiastic to introduce this new program on a national level. To learn more about the Exercise US program in greater detail, or to see the list of schools that have signed up to participate, visit the Exercise US Web site at this link.

About Len Saunders:
Saunders is also the creator of Project ACES, which has motivated millions of children to exercise over the last 20 years. He has been recognized by Sports Illustrated, Ladies Home Journal, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times as an innovator in children's fitness. Over 30 years of experience has yielded Saunders numerous awards for his hard work and dedication at the local, state, and national levels. He serves as an educator, role model, consultant, motivator, author, and program creator for children and parents worldwide.

Take home message:
Exercise US should serve as a motivating force for similar events in your community. With the ongoing interest in childhood obesity throughout the nation it should not be difficult to promote a similar fitness event.

Len Saunders
Exercise US
Project ACES
Lets Go!

See also:
Diabetics who exercise live much longer
Sports drinks linked to teen obesity
Chemical BPA in food linked to childhood obesity
CDC releases sad statistics regarding obesity in the US
Qsymia weight loss med now available



I would like to recommend the free NAAFA Child Advocacy ToolkitSM (CATK) and other written guidelines/resources to assist you looking at programs. The total health of our nation's children is a serious responsibility. The NAAFA Child Advocacy Toolkit shows how Health At Every Size® takes the focus off weight and directs it to healthful eating and enjoyable movement. It addresses the bullying, building positive self-image and eliminating stigmatization of large children. Additionally, the CATK lists resources available to parents and educators or caregivers for educational materials, curriculum and programming that is beneficial for all children. It can be found at naafa.org. It is my hope that you will take this opportunity to look at the information held in the CATK and keep what is included in mind when making decisions regarding the children in your charge.
Thank you for the information.