SUMMIT, NJ - Exercising a goal to get area families to understand how adopting healthy lifestyles can help reduce childhood obesity -- and with September serving as 'Childhood Obesity Awareness Month' -- the Summit Area YMCA is stressing and supporting to improve eating habits and increase physical activity, with the ultimate goal to have all be at and maintain a healthy weight.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity affects one in six children in the U.S. and one in three are overweight, which poses greater risks for many health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and some cancers. Here in New Jersey, nearly 1 in 4 children are overweight or obese according to the Data Resource Center for Child & Adolescent Health.

“Successfully lowering obesity rates in children requires the whole family to change their eating and physical activity habits,” said Sue Fieseler, Director of Community Wellness, Summit YMCA. “In all of our Childcare Programs, our Healthy U program is included in the curriculum. The goal of Healthy U is to promote the healthy behavior changes that will help prevent childhood obesity through a three-pronged approach of nutrition education, increased physical activity, and family involvement.”

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The following tips are some key ways to incorporate healthier eating habits and more physical activity and into one's daily family routine:

Eat & Drink Healthy: Make water the drink of choice and encourage everyone to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables by offering two or three colorful options at every meal. As a family, choose a new fruit and veggie every week to taste together. Place a full pitcher of water on the table during meals, and allow children to pour their own water.

Play Every Day / Go Outside: Children should have at least an hour a day of unstructured play -- outdoors when possible -- and 'break a sweat' at least three times a week by getting 20 minutes or more of vigorous physical activity. Parents and adults are encouraged to join children in games that get hearts pumping and bodies moving.

Get Together: Eat as a family as frequently as possible. Involve kids in meal planning, preparation and clean up. In addition, adults should take a break from electronics and spend one-to-one time each day with their kids, enjoying one another’s company.

Reduce Recreational Screen Time: Time spent in front of a television, computer, tablet, cell phone or video games should be limited to two hours or less per day. Make a family plan to reduce screen time at home. For example, turn off screens during meals, go for a walk, set a timer as a reminder to 'power down'.

Sleep Well: Kids and adults need to keep a regular sleep schedule; unwind together in the evenings by reading a book or listening to soft music to ensure the body is preparing for sleep. Kids are growing and need 10-12 hours of healthy sleep per night and seven to eight hours for adults.

The 'Healthy U' program is the result of a collaborative partnership between The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey and the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance. Through preschool, after-school and school-based programs, 'Healthy U' impacts more than 90,000 children, ages 3 to 13, at 480 YMCA and elementary school sites statewide. These YMCA afterschool and preschool programs and partnering schools are implementing environmental strategies and activities, and education to increase physical activity and promote good nutrition for students and their families. Since its inception in 2007, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey has awarded three grants totaling $4.62 million through 2019.

The Summit Area YMCA is pleased to be part of 'Healthy U', a statewide initiative to introduce the award winning Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) curriculum aimed at addressing the childhood obesity in the preschool, afterschool, and elementary school setting.

The 'CATCH Kids Club' (CKC) program is comprised of nutrition education materials and a physical activity component. Children learn about healthy living and healthier lifestyles all while having fun. This program incorporates 30 minutes of non-competitive physical activity at least three times during the week. 'CATCH' is incorporated into various childhood programs at the Y, including but not limited to, preschool, pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and afterschool care. 'CATCH' is an evidence-based and award-winning curriculum that was created in 1992 by national education and child health experts at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, School of Public Health and the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living.

The Healthy U program is open to children between the ages of 5 and 12 who are enrolled in the Summit Area YMCA’s afterschool programs.

The Y invites the community to join them on September 13 at 9 a.m. for a healthy breakfast and get some important info on lunch ideas, recipes, and taste testing. A similar event will be held at the ShopRite in Springfield, located at 727 Morris Turnpike, on September 18 from 9:30 - 11 a.m.

The Summit Area YMCA is located at 67 Maple Street.