is offering help in the fight against childhood obesity with
“Getting into Fitness Together” (GIFT), a seven-week program
designed to help families reach fitness goals creatively. The
physical fitness program for children ages 7 to 12 and their
families features a variety of activities, from scavenger hunts to
water games, designed to promote the enjoyment of active movement.
Now in its
second year, GIFT was created by UNC Asheville psychology professor
Melissa Himelein with funds from the Bremen Professorship, a
two-year, $8,000 fund that helps social science professors implement
a project unrelated to traditional teaching activities.
Last year 13
families participated and successfully completed the program.
Himelein and her students recently conducted interviews with the
former participants and discovered that the program made a positive
impact on these families.
later, eight of the families felt they had maintained their changes
and had remained more active and continued to eat more healthfully,"
said Himelein. "Others reported a positive attitude about physical
activity or a jump start back into overall fitness."
is now open for the 2007 program. GIFT sessions will take place on
the UNC Asheville campus from 4:45 to 5:45 p.m. Tuesdays and
Thursdays from March 13 to April 26. Some sessions will involve
fitness activities for the entire family, while others will offer
separate exercise for adults and children. Adults will engage in
walking, jogging, weight lifting or water aerobics, while active
physical games and outdoor play are planned for the children. Each
week, participants will also be given a “homework” activity that all
family members can participate in.
“If a child is
overweight, there has to be a family response,” said Himelein. “Most
children aren't going to get themselves out to exercise or eat
nutritious meals. A family has to approach the problem together if
things are going to change.”
pairs each family with a UNC Asheville student who will work
one-on-one with family members. Students include dancers, athletes,
child caretakers, camp counselors and future elementary school
teachers, who all have an interest in health promotion. With an
emphasis on psychological well-being, the program is intended to
foster a positive attitude towards personal wellness and health.
psychology in terms of working with people in sensitive, helpful
ways,” Himelein said. “There’s a pretty strong relationship between
mood and aerobic activity. We will put a premium on activities being
fun and noncompetitive, keeping people happy, and getting them
obesity is on the rise nationwide and is a particular problem in
Western North Carolina. In Buncombe County, 20.8 percent of children
2 to 19 are classified as overweight, some four percent above state
average, according to data collected at local health departments in
2003. Nationwide, 16 percent of children are overweight, more than
double the amount 20 years ago. For the first time in history,
statistics show that children today are not expected to live longer
than their parents due to the growing problem of childhood obesity.
in UNC Asheville’s GIFT program is one active step in the right
direction. Families struggling with weight issues or that want to
become fitter may register for the program. Children cannot
participate unless at least one parent is involved. Free childcare
for children too young to participate will be provided. Registration
is $35. As an incentive, the registration fee will be fully refunded
to those who complete the program.
information or to register, call Melissa Himelein, UNC Asheville
psychology professor, at 828/251-6834 or click on