Dr. Tom Warshawski is a pediatrician and Chair of the Childhood Obesity Foundation

Mind, exercise, nutrition…do it!

MEND is a free local, 10-week program that gives families the tips and tools starting September 29.

Autumn is right around the corner, which means shorter days, cooler temperatures and, for some of us, less time spent outdoors.

However, that doesn’t have to mean less physical activity. Mind, exercise, nutrition… do it! (MEND) is a free local, 10-week program that gives families the tips and tools they need to live a healthy lifestyle and maintain a healthy weight. It’s aimed at children ages five to 13 and their parents or caregivers.It starts in Nelson  on September 29. The program will be held at the South Nelson Elementary School for children ages 7-13 and their families on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

The busy fall and winter months are the hardest time for many families to get motivated to maintain an active lifestyle. But regular exercise, combined with a well-balanced diet, is a habit that needs to be followed year-round for Canadians of all ages to maintain good health.

This is especially important in today’s society, where changes in work and leisure are affecting Canadians’ activity and eating patterns. A shift towards less physical work, and more passive leisure activities such as TV viewing and video games, is creating a more sedentary society. It’s also becoming more challenging for Canadians to maintain a healthy weight as a result of larger portion sizes and greater availability of unhealthy food choices.

According to Health Canada, this lack of exercise and poor eating habits have led to increased rates of overweight and obesity in Canada, among all age groups.

About 30 per cent of children and youth in Canada are either overweight or obese today, up from 15 per cent in 1978.Statistics show that obese children have an 80 per cent or higher probability of becoming obese adults. Adults who have unhealthy weights are at increased risk of heart disease, cancers, strokes and type 2 diabetes.

Eating right and being physically active is not only important for reducing the risk of obesity and of future health problems, but these habits are also essential for staying happy and thinking clearly. We know that physically active children and those who eat well do better in school and are generally more content.

The key to good health at any age is developing and maintaining good habits, and sticking to them. The good news is that adopting healthy habits doesn’t cost money and there are resources across the province to help families develop a healthy lifestyle.

MEND is funded by the Province of BC and supports Healthy Families BC, the government’s public health strategy that focuses on leadership, prevention and health improvement for B.C. families and their communities.

The BCRPA has been offering the MEND program through participating municipal recreation centres providing families with the ability to experience how small changes in physical activity, healthy eating and lifestyle choices can make a significant difference.

Almost 400 children and their parents or caregivers have participated or registered in BC’s MEND programs to date.

One in three children are above a healthy weight. Does your child get less than one hour of active play each day? Want to know how to help your child get healthier? Call or email to find out if MEND is right for your family. Visit bchealthykids.ca for more information on the MEND program in Nelson and to find out if the program is right for your family.

-Dr. Tom Warshawski is a pediatrician and Chair of the Childhood Obesity Foundation, which is one of the partners behind MEND and ShapedownBC, alongside the Province of British Columbia, BC Recreation and Parks Association and the YMCA of Greater Vancouver.

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