Super Size or Exercise? Childhood Obesity on the Rise

February 27, 2004 -- Posted at 5:25 p.m. CST

WEST MEMPHIS -- A campaign to fight childhood obesity is kicked off in Region eight. In a society that would often rather super size than exercise, it's no wonder childhood obesity is a growing problem.

"We've had a tremendous decline in physical activity in our young people. At the same time, we've seen an increase in the overweight in our children," said Miles Goggans, a volunteer for the Coalition for Healthy and Active America, or CHAA.

Volunteers for CHAA were at Bragg Elementary school in West Memphis Friday afternoon. Their message: motivating kids to increase their physical activity and providing nutritional education.

"This is really where we want to get the message out. straight to the kids and hopefully that will flow back to the parents," said Goggans.

But there were also a few special guests on hand for the event. Congressman Marion Berry spoke to the 4th, 5th & 6th graders, about the importance of staying in shape.

"We're the first nation in history that was so prosperous that we eat too much...including myself. We need to educate the children to do a better job, and be conscious of their nutrition. And also just exercise more. That would be a very good thing," said Representative Berry.

But the hit of the day was Memphis Redbird Rocky...he entertained the crowd of children while showing them that exercise can be fun.

"It's jumped in the last 20 years. The number of severely overweight children was 5% of kids in 1980. In 2000, it jumped over 15%, and according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, over 61% of children 9-13 participate in no organized physical activity," said Goggans.

While CHAA organizers say it's hard to motivate children, getting them outside and off the couch, it can be worth it in the long run.

"I've got to get up an hour early and go to the gym and work's an easy thing to pass up. So it's natural human inclination to not to want to do those things. The good news is that it can be fun and you feel a lot better after you do it and it actually makes you think a little bit more about your nutrition and eating habits," said Rep. Berry.

And it's changing those habits one at a time...diabetes, hypertension and other obesity-related chronic diseases that are prevalent among adults have now become more common in youngsters according to the American Obesity Association.