Thursday, March 4, 2010

Did you know that across the country, kids are running marathons?

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Marathon Kids® is a free program that started in Austin, TX, with the aim of promoting physical activity and healthy eating in a way that can be fun and motivating. Over the course of six months, participating children from ages kindergarten to fifth grade walk or run 26.2 miles in increments of one-fourth miles. Children track their miles on their “Mileage Logs,” keeping their goal in site and seeing their progress as they go. They are also challenged to eat five fruits and vegetables for 26.2 days of every month, and are given a “Fuel Log” to track this progress. Children learn about the importance of daily exercise and healthy eating, and are encouraged to develop healthy habits in a fun, encouraging way.

The program also offers “Kick-off” and “Final Mile” events in many metro areas across the country. These events are an opportunity for children and their parents to run the first and final miles of their marathons with other participating families from the region, receiving encouragement and support from the whole community. Often local sports and political celebrities get involved with these events, showing kids that exercise and healthy eating can be easy and fun...

The Michael & Susan Dell Center for Advancement of Healthy Living recently completed a two-year evaluation of the program, and our findings are promising for parents and teachers who are considering participating in the Marathon Kids program. Children who participated in Marathon Kids on average ran more than their peers who did not participate, were more likely to eat fruits and vegetables at school, and had more confidence in being physically active.

We all know that eating right and exercising are the keys to a healthier, happy life. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to motivate kids (and adults!) to start exercising and eating in a way that builds healthy habits for a lifetime. The Marathon Kids program offers a fun, easy, and competitive way to engage children and their families, and get them moving towards the goal of healthier living. And actual scientific testing has demonstrated that the program really can improve kids’ physical activity and eating habits.

Are you a parent or teacher who might be interested in participating with your child in Marathon Kids? Events are being held in major metro areas across the country, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Baltimore, Dallas and Austin. Visit http://www.marathonkids.org/ to learn more!

Written by Michael Pomeroy, BS
Research Assistant