Feature Article - February 2009
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Inspiring a Lifetime of Health

Wellness Programming for the Under-18 Crowd

By Dawn Klingensmith


Passport to Fitness

More specifically, FitQuest Kids' Club aims to encourage kids to increase their fruit, veggie and water consumption while decreasing the amount of time spent in front of TV, computer and videogame screens.

The hospital's Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition provided nutrition guidance for a weekly nutrition and activity calendar that children ages 5 to 12 can use to help them make healthy eating and leisure decisions.

Based on the center's input, "We produced a tri-fold brochure and distributed it through health fairs, schools and community centers," said Mike Herron, the department's fitness manager. "It's meant to be put on the fridge to track the kids' progress on a weekly basis."

For each fruit, vegetable and water serving consumed, kids get to color in pictures of representative icons, such as an apple, a carrot or a drinking glass. For every 15 minutes of physical activity, they get to color in an athletic shoe.

Kids also track the number of hours they spend watching TV, playing videogames or using the computer, with the goal of bringing the tally down over time.

Upon achieving certain benchmarks, kids can redeem their calendars for sports balls (soccer, football, volleyball or basketball) provided by sponsors.

While FitQuest Kids' Club participants could sweat their way toward prizes in their own back yards, the Washington, D.C., Parks and Recreation Department used a similar concept to encourage participation in its own programs. The department distributes "passports" to kids and teens, who receive stamps whenever they take part in department-sponsored fitness activities. Once their passports are filled, they receive prizes, such as coupons for healthy eating establishments.

The passport concept can be used to advance nutrition education, as well. The Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Department in Charlotte, N.C., partnered with USA Tennis to teach the benefits of participating in lifelong sports in its youth summer day camps. As part of the initiative, camp participants were challenged to "Go Around the World" by sampling various cuisines, thereby earning passport stamps. Kids who filled their passports were awarded coupons for commercial venues where they could be active, such as bowling alleys and skating rinks.