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Help children live a more active and healthy life with the Y.

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of obesity affects about 14.7 million, or one in five U.S. children and adolescents. Obesity can increase risk for health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and some cancers. Here in Wisconsin 30.7% of children ages 10-17 are considered overweight or obese, according to America’s Health Ranking

As children and families begin their new school-year routines, it’s a perfect time to reflect and refresh your family’s healthy habits. As families settle into new school-year routines this month, YMCA of the Fox Cities is offering tips to help families incorporate healthy eating and physical activity into the lives of their children. Developing healthy habits begins at home from a young age and usually carrys on into adulthood. The following tips are some great ways to incorporate healthier eating habits, more physical activity into your daily family routine and how the Y can help.

Eat & Drink Healthy: Make water the drink of choice and encourage everyone to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables by offering two or three colorful options at every meal. As a family, choose a new fruit and veggie every week to taste together. Place a full pitcher of water on the table during meals and allow children to pour their own water. To further encourage drinking water and staying hydrated, keep full water bottles available in the car and back packs. Another thing to pre plan and keep on the go are healthy snacks. These can include yogurt, trail mix, cheese and crackers, granola, veggies and fruits- including dried fruits.

Play Every Day/Go Outside: Children 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. You can also join your children in games that get your hearts pumping and body moving. The Y offers various activities for kids of all ages to stay active both indoors and outdoors. For example, dance classes, swimming, and sports classes and leagues such as flag football, soccer, and volleyball are available at most of our locations. Some locations also offer an indoor playground area like the Family Fun Center at the Appleton YMCA and Heart of the Valley YMCA, or Adventure Alley at the Neenah-Menasha YMCA. To further encourage the maintenance of healthy living habits, the Y offers classes and programs for youth and teens as well. Most of our Y locations offer youth wellness center orientations that teach kids the proper way to use equipment as well as gym etiquette. This is a great way to introduce your young teen to proper workouts. 

Eat Together: Eating as a family as frequently as possible is a great way to spend quality time with each other. You can also involve kids in the meal planning, preparation, and clean up. In addition, this is also a great time for adults to take a break from electronics and spend one-to-one time each day with their kids, enjoying one another’s company.

Reduce Recreational Screen Time: Time spent in front of a television, computer, tablet, cell phone or video games should be limited to two hours or less per day. Make a family plan to reduce screen time at home (i.e., turn off screens during meals, charge electronics/screens in the kitchen overnight, go for a walk after a meal, set a timer to remind you to power down the screen). Also remember to refrain from screen time at least one hour before bed to ensure a good night’s sleep.

Sleep Well: Sleep is a major factor in the recovery of the body during the night. Kids and adults need to keep a regular sleep schedule; unwind together in the evenings by reading a book or listening to soft music to ensure the body is preparing for sleep. Kids are growing and need 10-12 hours of healthy sleep per night and seven to eight hours for adults.

It is important that we teach, learn, and show healthy lifestyle choices to kids. And keep in my mind that the habits they learn as kids can carry on into adulthood.
For more information on how your family can live a healthy, active life and get involved, check out all of our Y programs at