Hartford-based YMCA promotes healthy eating, get kids moving amid increase in childhood obesity rates

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HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A new study shows about one in every four children in Connecticut has a significant weight problem and it has gotten worse during the pandemic, largely because of inactivity.

“We have seen a sharp increase in the rates of childhood obesity across the board of all age groups,” said Dr. Melissa Santos, division chief of pediatric psychology at Connecticut Children’s.

Lack of exercise, stress and overeating brought on by the pandemic drove the childhood obesity numbers up, but Connecticut Children’s is expanding their programs to help families.

“If you have a concern for your child’s weight, it is a family thing to work on. You never target or focus on one child, you talk about what the family can do to be the healthiest they can do,” Santos said.

At the Wilson-Gray YMCA in Hartford, they are back to after-school basketball and adding new sports like pickleball and others to keep children engaged and exercising.

“We have volleyball for the kids, volleyball for adults, we have let’s dance programs which is ballet, hip-hop and break dancing for kids, and then we have the fitness classes,” said Deidra Riggs of Wilson-Gray YMCA.

They also have ping-pong, a pool and an indoor garden at the YMCA, where they are growing fresh vegetables for the kids and the community.

“We have towers here, it’s healthy eating and I show them how to do it from the seed,” said Kevin Shannon of Wilson-Gray YMCA.

Mr. Kevin also teaches the students healthy eating and the importance of green leafy vegetables in a diet.

“People from the community just come in, cut it and make a salad, take it home. We have bags that we provide for them to take it home. Free food,” Riggs said. “But then the Seed 2 Table Program will also teach families more about green food, healthy eating.”

If you would like to find out more about the YMCA’s health and fitness programs, click here, or click here to find out more about their sports programs. You can find more information about Connecticut Children’s obesity and weight management services here.

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