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Bringing the fight home

YMCA's ME Fit program shows overweight and obese children, families, healthier choices for everyday life

All the experts agree: obesity is an epidemic in America, and children are far from removed from the problem.

In New York, 20 percent of elementary school children are now considered obese, higher than the national average. Nationwide, 30 percent of children are considered either overweight or obese.

But a program at the Guilderland YMCA has for the past two years been aiming to change that and, for the first time, is currently being offered free under a grant from the state Office of Children and Family Services.

The ME Fit program (Motivation and Exercise for Fitness) meets twice a week for seven weeks and aims to not only increase the overall health of participants, but teach valuable lessons that can be taken home. A session for children in grades two through five recently started, and registration is open for a session for grades six through nine that starts Nov. 1.

The main difference between ME Fit and other healthy crash courses is that both the child and the parents must participate. It's also one of the reasons Linda Crowley, leader of the program and dietician at the Guilderland YMCA, sometimes has difficulty filling the eight slots available. But it's a more effective way to effect changes, she said.

What it's doing is taking that battleground between you and your child ... and getting the kids to start asking for the different things, Crowley said.

Starting a program like ME Fit was always a goal for Crowley since she started with the YMCA two years ago. A great deal of tackling the problem is educational, she said. Most don't understand how being overweight or obese affects a child's body, which is growing and going through rapid changes. Sometimes participants show up with incorrect ideas of whether their child is technically in either of these two categories.

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