COLUMN: The YMCA of Greater Syracuse offers tips for healthy eating and physical activity

— September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and the YMCA of Greater Syracuse — a leader in youth development and healthy living—wants to help families in Onondaga County understand the risks of childhood obesity and how to incorporate regular physical activity and healthy eating into their lives.

Childhood obesity rates have soared over the last few decades. The state Department of Health estimates that one in four New Yorkers under the age of 18 is obese. More alarming, obesity puts children at risk for chronic diseases that usually affect only adults, such as high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

“At the Y, we want families to understand the risks of childhood obesity and the lifetime benefits of eating right and getting physically active,” said Hal Welsh, executive director of the YMCA of Greater Syracuse. “Small changes can make a big difference when it comes to healthy living and the Y is a great place for families to get started.”

This health crisis sheds light on the need to provide children and parents with the resources and the support they need, emphasizing that small steps can lead to sustained changes to reverse the childhood obesity trend. The following tips can help families live healthier:

  1. Eat Healthy: Make water the drink of choice (supplemented by 100-percent fruit juices and low-fat milk) and have fruits and vegetables available at every meal. Snack time should include foods that contain whole grains and lean protein instead of saturated and trans fats.

  2. Play Every Day/Go Outside: Kids and adults 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 physical activity.

  3. Get Together: At least once a day, families should dine together, with kids involved in meal preparation and clean up. In addition, adults should spend one-on-one time each day with their kids.

  4. Reduce Screen Time: Time spent in front of a television, computer, cell phone and video game should be limited to two hours per day.

  5. Sleep Well: Kids and adults need to keep a regular sleep schedule—10 to 12 hours per night for kids and seven to eight hours for adults.

The YMCA of Greater Syracuse offers a wide array of youth development programs that fight childhood obesity. These programs – sports, dance, camps, parent-child gym, community service, childcare, even cooking classes – help kids have fun while getting active and learning more about healthy habits. To learn more about the Y’s youth development and healthy living programs, please contact Amy Grabowski at 474-2562 or visit ycny.org.

Chris Iven is the director of communications at YMCA of Greater Syracuse.

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