Spinathon gets wheels of change turning for overweight kids

Published: Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It's has been recently estimated that 287 million children worldwide will be overweight or obese by 2010. With that alarming prospect in view, it's so important that we all try to contribute in some way to help curb this epidemic.
As parents, we know it's essential to offer healthy food choices at meal times and in lunch boxes and snacks, as well as to encourage our kids to get outside and exercise instead of allowing them to sit for hours in front of computer screens and video games.
But what else can we do?
For a start, there's the Spinathon - a fundraising event this month where every cent raised goes toward sending overweight children to a summer camp designed to help them improve their lifestyles.
As regular readers of my column will remember, last summer I followed two teenagers who were attending McGill's CHIP 4 Teens camp.
The aim of this CHIP (Cardiovascular Health Improvement Program) camp is to teach kids age 11 to 17 about healthy eating habits and exercise.
The idea is that if you give children the right tools when they're young, they'll have a good shot at maintaining them for life.
To qualify for the camp, the kids must first recognize and acknowledge the health risks associated with being overweight, and be ready to modify their lifestyles. In other words, they must be motivated to change.
Once applications are received, CHIP director Marla Gold assesses each applicant. An important factor, she says, is family involvement and support.
"It's not just the kids who have to change - they need help from their families, too."
Since it opened in 2005, the camp has played host to 48 kids.
If the kids themselves had to pay the full shot for their camp stay, it would cost them about $2,000.
But most of the costs are defrayed with the money raised during the annual fundraiser, the Spinathon. The kids who get to go to camp pay only $400. This year, CHIP hopes to raise enough in the Spinathon to send 30 kids.
When it comes to the success rate, there are many ways in which to measure the results, since it's about more than just weight loss.
The CHIP team has seen the most significant improvements in self-esteem, based on the psychological assessments that are done at the beginning and end of each session.
Improvement in that area alone will go a long way in terms of lifelong habits.
"It gave them a taste of success and the confidence to continue to pursue making permanent lifestyle changes" Gold said.
This past session saw one 15-year-old boy lose 10 pounds and three inches from his waist, and increase his exercise capacity by 11 per cent in just seven weeks of camp.
His morale was incredibly positive.
How can one measure that kind of success?
The Spinathon takes place Nov. 26 at the Mansfield Athletic Club, 1230 Mansfield St. You can register alone or as a team. For details, call Marla Gold at 514-846-7973, Local 246, or check out the website at www.chiprehab.com.

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2006