Updated 07/27/2012 10:25 PM
Going for the gold in defeating childhood obesity
The American Heart Association is hoping the Olympic opening ceremonies motivated some of its youngest viewers to spend time away from their television sets. Sarah Blazonis reports.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- There was no pin the tail on the donkey or other traditional games at James Cary's ninth birthday party. These were Olympic games.
"We did relay races, we did soccer shots," said James, who celebrated his Olympics-themed birthday at the CNY Family Sports Centre. "I had a really good time."
"The timing was perfect," said his mom, Renata Cary. "All my kids are so active, they're involved in so many different sports and it was just a natural choice."
But physical activity is playing a smaller role in the lives of many American children.
Fourteen percent of preschoolers were overweight in 2004, up from 10 percent in 2000. Those kids have an 80 percent chance of staying overweight their whole lives. That's why the American Heart Association is urging parents to use the games to get kids active.
The heart association says today, one in three American kids are overweight or obese, nearly triple the rate from 1963. While they might not be destined for Olympic gold, simply using the games as a jumping off point to inspire physical activity could help prevent an array of health problems down the road.
The AHA recommends simple lifestyle changes, like eating healthier and exercising 60 minutes a day. Some fitness centers make it easy to turn healthy living into a family activity.
"A lot of times it's the parents out there with the kids, three-year-olds. That's kind of the beginner program. And then a lot of times we run adult leagues, so you'll see a lot of the kids watching their parents play as well. And they like to see that," said Jeff Knittel, general manager of the CNY Family Sports Centre.
"By us being active and by encouraging them to participate in things, hopefully we're starting a foundation here for a nice, long, healthy life for them," said Renata Cary.
And while James and his friends know who they're rooting for at the games this year, parents are pulling for them to develop healthy habits for life.
For more information on how to help kids get healthy, visit www.heart.org.