teaching healthy habits
How awesome would it be if your mom cheered you on every time you walked or ran a quarter mile? What if your boss gave you a high five every time you ate a piece of fruit? I bet you’d log a few more miles and eat a few more apples.
Unfortunately, grown-ups don’t get a whole lot of recognition for running and eating right, but maybe they should. Maybe there is something to be learned from the Marathon Kids program, which kicks off in Austin this Saturday.
The nonprofit introduces children to the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Over the course of six months, kids incrementally run or walk 26.2 miles and eat five fruits and vegetables for at least 26.2 days each month. Parents and teachers cheer on the kids as they track their efforts using fun Marathon Kids coloring books.
Kay Morris started the program 16 years ago as a way to share her love of running with area children.
“I figured I could make running very simple for little kids by providing a running log to color and creating some excitement by celebrating their success with a big party at the beginning and at the end. I had no idea it would mushroom like it has today,” Morris says.
Today the free program is offered at schools in eight cities, including Los Angeles and Chicago. Morris targets areas where children are most vulnerable to sedentary lives, childhood obesity, and Type 2 diabetes. In Central Texas alone, there are 83,000 K-5th grade kids registered to participate in what Morris hopes is a lifetime of healthy habits.
“Kids really enjoy and appreciate that this is truly a journey and not just a one time event.”
Studies performed by the University of Texas School of Public Health show Marathon Kids, compared to non-Marathon Kids, made healthier food choices, logged more minutes of daily exercise and had a significant shift in their positive perception of themselves.
I bet we could put a small dent in this country’s obesity rates if we all approached and encouraged healthy living with this kind of excitement. Maybe we should all give the next person we see eating a piece of fruit or heading out for a run a pat on the back. Sure, they may look at us funny, but at least we’ll know we’re doing our part to create a healthier world.