Kids for Running Spotlights Youth Health, Fitness

April 19, 2010

Convincing kids to get off the couch and enjoy the outdoors has proven quite challenging, as evidenced by ever-expanding nationwide childhood obesity rates.

That’s why the Bellin Run Kids for Running program is a key component of the annual race, organizers say. The program prepares local kids in grades 3-8 to run or walk the 10K (6.2-mile) course. Many students training for the 34th annual Bellin Run will do so through Kids for Running as part of their after-school activities or running programs.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says childhood obesity more than tripled over the last 30 years,” said Tia DeLeers, team leader for Pediatrics at Bellin Health and the Kids for Running coordinator. “Obesity in kids aged 6 to 11 years old rose from 6.5 percent in 1980 to almost 20 percent in 2008. In addition, obesity in adolescents ages 12 to 19 years increased from 5 percent to just over 18 percent.”

It’s sobering statistics like these that have Bellin Run organizers working diligently to encourage young people to participate in the 8 a.m. Saturday, June 12 race and the complementary Kids for Running program, DeLeers explained.

“We’ve been very successful in the past with this program, and that’s a good sign,” she said. “Our past successes, however, are only serving to refuel this year’s efforts. Our goal is to spread the messages of exercise, fitness and improved overall health to our young people so that they learn to live healthier lives now and carry that into their adult lives.”

That goal fits well with CDC findings. According to the CDC, it’s during the transition from childhood to adulthood that adolescents establish patterns of behavior and make lifestyle choices that affect both their current and future health.

More than 2,660 kids and trainers from 41 area schools took part in last year’s Bellin Run Kids for Running program. That number is expected to increase, organizers say.

“The numbers have steadily increased in each of the last five years,” DeLeers said. “In 2005 we had 1,486 program participants. In 2006 we had 1,955. In 2007 and 2008 we had 2,217 and 2,452 participants, respectively. Last year’s total continued that trend of increasing participation. I don’t expect this year to be any different.”

Bellin Run executive race director Randy Van Straten agreed.

“As more young people learn to embrace an active, healthy lifestyle, we can expect to see our participatory numbers increase which in turn hopefully leads communities as a whole to get healthier as children influence parents, parents influence friends and so on,” he said. “We certainly appreciate all that the Kids for Running team leaders from the schools are doing to inspire these young runners.”

While many students will run or walk the entire 10K route on June 12, many of those ages 10 and younger will showcase their running skills at the Kids Run & Fun Event on Friday, June 11.  The Run & Fun Event will be held in conjunction with the Bellin Run Health Expo at Astor Park.

For more information about the Kids for Running program, or to sign up, contact Tia DeLeers, Kids for Running coordinator, at (920) 559-0010.

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