This month marks the third national observance of Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, which was established to help draw the public’s attention to the seriousness and side effects of childhood obesity.
According to the American College of Sports and Medicine’s website, www.acsm.org, more than 23 million children ages 2-19 are overweight or obese in the United States.
The Fort Stewart Child, Youth and School Services’ Youth Sports and Fitness Program is doing its part to combat this epidemic by again offering the “Get Fit, Be Strong” boot camp to area military children ages 11-17.
“Get Fit, Be Strong” is a partnership between Army CYSS; the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition; the National Alliance for Youth Sports; the Boys and Girls Clubs of America; and 4-H. It provides a structured goal system for military children to get healthier while working to win fitness awards.
Participants can work toward earning the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award and/or the Presidential Champions Award. Participants receive a book in which to log all of their activity for the class and any other sports or exercises they do at home. If they consistently meet the activity goals for six to eight weeks or meet the required amount of points, they become eligible to receive either or both of the awards.
The Get Fit, Be Strong boot camp is a free, month-long camp that is offered twice weekly. It focuses on total-body fitness, according to lead instructor Craig Crawford, a sports specialist with CYSS.
“We focus on different muscle groups — upper-body, core strength, lower-body. There is a lot of cardio. We make sure they get in a good 60-minute workout,” Crawford said.
This year, 24 kids signed up for the class, which started Sept. 4. Participation varies week to week and class to class.
“Parents are highly encouraged to participate, and we have several who make it a priority to participate,” Crawford said. “We do something different with the kids every class. We keep it as interesting and fun as we can to keep coming back each class.”
CYSS Youth Sports and Fitness Director Sam Porter assists Crawford.
“The class focuses primarily on cardio exercises in timed intervals to get their heart rates up,” Porter said.
The instructors explain to the class which parts of the body they will be working on, as well as demonstrating the proper technique for each exercise before they start.
“We encourage them do as many repetitions of the exercise as they can as quickly as they can, which helps the muscles recover faster and will help them build muscle,” Porter said.
Although participants are given short timed breaks periodically, they are encouraged to keep moving instead of sitting or leaning against a wall.
Thomas Holt, 11, is a regular boot-camp participant. His mother, Theresa Reeves, sits on the sidelines to cheer Thomas on since she is eight months pregnant and cannot participate. Their family learned about the class through a flier at the youth center and the installation’s Marne TV channel. The Reeves/Holt family is new to Fort Stewart and had been seeking exercise opportunities for Thomas, who usually is active in sports.
“We knew this boot camp would be perfect for him,” Reeves said. “With his asthma, he was having trouble adjusting to the new climate. He needed something that would help him in conditioning and building up his strength and endurance.”
His father, Sgt. 1st Class Justin Reeves, is looking forward to joining his son for the last few classes when he returns home from temporary duty in a couple weeks.
“I really like (the class),” Thomas said. “Some of the exercises hurt to do, but they are fun. They are getting easier as we go and we develop.”
Stewart youth and parents who are interested in participating in the remaining classes, which run through Sept. 27, can stop by the Youth Sports Center in Building 7338, Porter said, although he reminds parents that youth first must be registered with CYSS.
The President’s Challenge is open to all American youth, military or civilian. The program may be available at local schools. Contact local physical education teachers for details or go to www.presidentschallenge.org and create an account.