Older kids can go to camp too

Amadeus Smith

A 10-week weight loss program or carb counting may no longer fit into some adolescents’ routine as teen involvement in KIDS Camp increases.

Nearly 30 percent of children in the United States are overweight and at least 15 percent are obese. Childhood obesity has doubled in the last 25 years and childhood diabetes has increased tenfold over the last 20 years, according to a March 2005 article posted on CNN’s Web site.

KIDS (Kids Interested in Diet and Sport) Camp is offering children ages eight to 16 a chance to learn about nutritious food, exercise and how to develop a healthy lifestyle.

“It’s different than adults. We’re not focusing on a 10-week weight loss program,” said Natalie Caine-Bish, assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics. “We focus on the long-term. That’s why we involve families.”

The program’s participants are separated by age. Caine-Bish, graduate student Samantha Wait and graduate assistant Jodie Luidhardt have not had to develop new curriculum until this year because the majority of participants fell in between the ages of eight and 11.

This year younger and older participants are just about even in number. Caine-Bish said they will revamp the program for the older participants since enrollment has increased.

Advisers and mentors in the program have always engaged each group differently. Older participants, for instance, have a chance to hit the weight room during the exercise portion of the weekly session. Older kids typically listen to a lecture as the younger kids learn healthy living habits by playing a nutrition version of “Jeopardy,” making their own healthy smoothie or taste-testing in a nutritional version of “Fear Factor.”

Instead of a lecture at the last session, the older participants went through an online interactive tutorial. The tutorial focuses on the new food pyramid released last year. Each participant entered his or her weight, height, age and gender into the program. It then approximated the amounts of calories a participant can consume and which food groups to take them from.

Luidhardt is thinking about working with another Web site that discusses food portions. The Web site, http://hin.nhlbi.nih.gov/portion/, has a quiz that displays a common food and the participant has to choose the proper amount to eat.

“Right now portions are about five times larger than they should be,” Luidhardt said.

A lack of portion control is only one of the things causing childhood obesity. Luidhardt said fast food, video games, television and the computer all contribute to childhood obesity.

“The fast food industry has reacted by putting healthier things on the menu but customers are still going for the other items,” she said.

The increase in older kids in the camp will not just change the curriculum. It may positively affect the younger children.

“When the younger kids see the older kids, it means they have someone else to look up to other than the Kent students,” Wait said.

Contact School of Exercise, Leisure and sport reporter Amadeus Smith at [email protected].