More than 19 percent of children ages 6 to 11 in the United States are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Further, 50 percent of obese 5-year-old children will remain obese as adults, with that percentage going up to 80 if they remain obese into adolescence.
Those sobering statistics are why Northern Arizona Healthcare and Verde Valley Medical Center have developed the Fit Kids of Arizona Health Services program — “a program focused on helping children improve their health while reducing the health consequences related to childhood obesity,” according to its website.
The program is for kids whose body mass index places them in the 85th percentile or higher for their age and gender and includes counseling related to the child’s nutrition and physical activity levels.
It also sponsors events that encourage kids to be more active.
Several children, their parents and others who support the cause ran in the fourth annual Fit Kids 5K Fun Run on Saturday, Nov. 2, in Cottonwood’s Riverfront Park.
The event included a 5K run, a kids dash, a free lunch and awards ceremony, and featured special guest John Rhode, who was the winner of NBC’s season 12 “Biggest Loser” competition.
Justin Boyd of Cottonwood won the run, but streams of kids with big smiles on their faces followed closely behind, some who were actually sprinting to the finish line.
“Look at this!” Rhode exclaimed. “Kids who couldn’t even run a lap five months ago just ran a 5K.
How many adults have never run a 5K, and now here’s an 8-year-old kid running a 5K.”
Rhode called the program unprecedented because of the amount of funding Northern Arizona Healthcare has dedicated to it.
“They’re trying to put themselves out of business by keeping people fit and healthy,” he said. “The beautiful thing is it’s about people, it’s at a human level, it’s not a gimmick, it’s just real people working with children and coming together with a common goal, and that’s when things become unstoppable.”
Rhode said that part of the reason he ended up on the Biggest Loser Ranch at 445 pounds was because he didn’t know the first thing about proper nutrition.
“And I know these kids are learning that and it’s simple, it doesn’t have to be numbers; it could just be portions — lean meats, vegetables, fruits, keep it simple, avoid sugar and processed foods.
“It doesn’t have to be difficult and it doesn’t have to be a diet, it could just be a lifestyle that kids learn from the very beginning.”
For the full story, please see the Wednesday, Nov. 6, issue of the Camp Verde Journal and Cottonwood Journal Extra.