Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.

In 2012, more than one-third of children and adolescents in the U.S. were overweight or obese.

The immediate and long-term health effects of childhood obesity are commonly known (in fact, there’s a conference in San Diego this month on the topic), but what is being done to prevent this growing problem?

The South Bay YMCA Youth Fitness Program

The South Bay YMCA has been tackling this issue head-on.

The Y launched its Youth Fitness Program in 2011 with a primary goal to aid in the prevention of childhood obesity by increasing the awareness and importance of a healthy lifestyle through exercise, nutritional education and a fun environment.

“[Kids] are learning the importance of being active with the hopes that they will become more aware of their choices and become part of a healthier lifestyle,” said Karina Pina-Armas, the Y’s Director who oversees the program.

Program Growth

In 2012, the program received a $10,000 grant from The San Diego Foundation’s regional affiliate, The Chula Vista Charitable Foundation, to buy equipment such as exercise tubing, medicine balls and agility ladders, assist with staff costs, and expand the program.

Beginning with just one pilot site, the Youth Fitness Program now has 19 sites with more than 500 students participating. More than 2,000 children have participated in the program since it launched, according to Y’s Health and Wellness Director, Carlos Garcia.

Check out KUSI’s feature on the grant and the program here:

Results and Feedback

Since the program was launched, the average BMI levels of participating students have always been under the obese range of 25, according to Garcia.

“Initially, when we began the program almost five years ago, the overall average BMI [of students] was 28, which is considered obese,” Garcia said. “Currently the average between all of the school sites sits at 22.5, which is considered within the normal range of the BMI scale.”

The Youth Fitness Program continues to be the Y’s main focus in its Licensed Child Care program, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from more than just the students.

Parents are happy their children are learning the importance of leading healthy, active lifestyles at a young age.

As for the future of the program, Garcia has his eyes set on further expansion.

“We would love to see this program grow in the actual school curriculum of all the schools in the south county region where childhood obesity is large, especially in the Hispanic populated communities,” he said.

Learn More

The South Bay YMCA provides several youth development, healthy living and social responsibility programs in San Diego. Which program is right for you or your child?

Learn More