FIGHTING THE BATTLE WITH FUN, NUTRITION AND HEALTHY ACTIVITIES
Obesity is a growing concern for kids of younger and younger ages, so Torrance Memorial Medical Center’s Lundquist Cardiovascular Institute is combating the problem with its
Kids ‘N Fitness program.
“We’re seeing more kids with adult-onset [type 2] diabetes because of their weight,” explains Helaine Lopes, coordinator of the Kids ‘N Fitness program. “This program not only encourages them to be active; it also teaches them about healthier eating habits.”
During each of the program’s six, 90-minute sessions, held on Thursday evenings at the Torrance– South Bay YMCA, kids and their parents meet with a registered dietician to discuss nutrition topics such as portion control, sugar, fats/reading labels, etc. The kids then go with Michael Vicari, YMCA team fitness coordinator, to learn about fitness activities offered at the Y, such as strength training, dance and more, while the parents meet with the dietician.
To finish the session, the kids return for a fun activity related to nutrition. For example, after the session talking about sugar, kids are asked to estimate the amount of sugar in various soft drinks and cereals by placing sugar cubes in front of them.
“By the end of the program, the kids are making better food choices and feeling good about themselves,” says Lopes. “Parents say their kids will start telling them, ‘We shouldn’t be eating that.’”
Mark Lurie, MD, Torrance Memorial’s Medical Director of Cardiology Program Development, worked with the medical center to create the program, to tackle the issue of patients seeking care too late. The program is provided by Torrance Memorial as part of the non-profit’s mission to offer a host of community service programs from health education classes; support at local health fairs; free van transportation, and other programs. The value of those services to the community is between $4 million and $5 million annually.
“It seems clear that standard diet programs have missed their mark as far as prevention,” says Dr. Lurie. “Early education and activity through family and community intervention have shown great promise and outcomes. Helaine and her staff at Kids ‘N Fitness have truly led the way in these endeavors.”
While aimed at overweight kids, any child ages 7 to 13 can take the program. “A lot of parents say, ‘My kids aren’t overweight, but all they eat is sugar,’” reports Lopes.
About 200 kids have taken part in the free program since 2010. Parents/guardians merely need to sign them up and accompany them to sessions. Even better, during the six weeks of the Kids ‘N Fitness program, the kids and their families get free membership at the Y.
“It makes going to the Y a family thing,” says Lopes. “At the end of the program, I tell them, ‘Now that you’re used to coming in on Thursdays, why don’t you keep coming in on Thursdays?’”