Healthy habits early: overweight kids likely to be obese adults - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Healthy habits early: overweight kids likely to be obese adults

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Dubuque (KWWL) -- Kids are getting heavier; the number of overweight or obese children has tripled since 1980. That's according to the Centers for Disease Control. 16% of American kids fall into those categories, with teenagers showing the biggest increase.

Many schools are trying to get kids into healthy habits early. One Dubuque school recently won an award for getting kids excited about exercise, outside of the school gym.

"Prescott, Prescott, Prescott!" Students chanted as they did jumping jacks in the Prescott Elementary Gym. Physical education classes are required for all Dubuque students, but what happens off school grounds?

"When we look at the population of our students who walk to school, you know we have kids pretty close to us that are getting dropped off or picked up," Principal Chris McCarron said.

Part of why teacher Kory Tuescher challenged his fourth-graders to log sixty minutes of exercise five days a week for the 2009 Live Iowa Healthy Kids contest. All of the exercise had to be done outside of school.

"It's anywhere from playing outside with my sister, taking the dog for a walk, went to the mall shopping with mom or dad, helped grandma and grandpa clean. My favorite word is play. If you're playing, you're exercising," Tuescher said.

The class ended up winning a $3,000 prize for meeting the challenge.

The school is also concentrating on healthy eating. Making sure kids know what's good for them, and maybe what's not so good. That includes district's healthy foods policy and a no birthday-treat policy.

"We now recognize everyone with a bag of pencils and pens and other things like that. We're trying to say, there's a different way of doing business than we've done before, and change those habits, so we don't have to think about it as much anymore," McCarron said.

And Tuescher says elementary is the time to start healthy habits on the court and in the cafeteria.

"That's why I have a passion for what I do. You know, trying to teach students why what they can do, not only when they come to my regular class, but what can you do for yourself, outside, after school?"

Another reason to start healthy habits young -- the CDC also points out obese children are likely to become obese adults. Studies show 80% of kids who were overweight between 10 and 15 years old were considered obese by age 25.

Iowa currently has the worst obesity in the quad state region... 26.9% percent of Iowans are considered obese. Minnesota's rate is 25.6%, Illinois's 24.9%, and Wisconsin has a 24.7% obesity rate.

Nationally, Colorado has the lowest obesity rate with 18.7%, and Mississippi has the highest rate; 32%of people there are considered obese.

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

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