“We don’t talk about weight, we talk about health,” said FitKids360 parent participant, Jessica Coleman, whose family participated in the third annual program hosted at Mercy Health by Grand Rapids Family Medicine Residency Program.
FitKids360 is a free, seven-week program for children ages 5 to 17 and their parents or support partners, usually hosted in the spring. This program — which is a collaborative effort run at various sites throughout greater Grand Rapids — promotes healthier behaviors and lifestyles for children and their families.
FitKids360 combines basic education about nutrition, healthy behaviors and exercise with a wide range of physical activities to help participants develop healthy habits, eat better and become more active.
“We have a different exercise program with a different instructor every week that includes kickboxing and yoga,” said Arianna Lockstadt, third-year medical resident. “We play lots of games with the kids. Sometimes the parents will have break-out sessions so they have their own time to learn about things that affect them as parents.”
Children are referred to the program through their primary care physicians. Any community-wide physician can make referrals to the program.
“You learn a lot of things, such as how to keep yourself healthy, and they make you feel comfortable,” said kid participant Serene Coleman. “It’s just a good place to be.”
A multidisciplinary team — consisting of a nutritionist, social worker, and exercise coach, along with site leaders and mentors — helps to educate, motivate and encourage healthier eating habits and more active lifestyles. Emotional health is discussed as well. Presenters offer fun educational activities while covering important choices and situations that children experience on a daily basis.
A lifestyles questionnaire is completed at the beginning and the end of each session to measure participants’ understanding of the importance of healthy lifestyles, including emotional health. Important topics, such as bullying, are addressed, to encourage healthy behaviors at home and at school.
Individuals interested in the program, or in hosting FitKids360 in their community, should contact the FitKids360 Program Coordinator at 616.742.8907 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.