The need for 4-H healthy living programs

Michigan 4-H healthy living programs offer a variety of adjustments you can make to become healthier.

Nearly one in three Michigan youth ages 10-17 are overweight or obese. These children would fill Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions, to capacity almost seven times. This is concerning because obesity is associated with a number of adverse consequences, including increased risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer, as well as social and emotional trouble including peer stigmatization, discrimination and bullying. According to the Statewide Scan of Childhood Obesity Programs, Polices and Resources in Michigan, in addition to jeopardizing the health of Michigan’s future, obesity also weighs heavily on the health care system, both in terms of increased use of health care services and increased medically related health care expenditures.

Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development is committed to supporting its members and volunteers by providing programs to decrease obesity and increase physical fitness practices and good nutrition. Michigan 4-H has a statewide healthy living team composed of Extension educators, volunteers and teens. This team is charged with identifying, increasing and supporting 4-H healthy living programs across the state. The statewide 4-H healthy living team encourages counties to offer more innovative healthy living programs, camps and community gardens around nutrition and physical fitness.

An example of a unique healthy living program is a partnership with 4-H and Master Gardeners to build a hoop house and expand year-round gardening efforts while teaching gardening skills and incorporating nutrition education when vegetables are harvested. You can participate in 4-H healthy living programs or make simple adjustments to create a healthier lifestyle.

Here are 15 simple ways to incorporate more healthy practices to decrease obesity:

  1. Drink water instead of pop or juice.
  2. Increase daily physical activity.
  3. Trade salty and sugary processed snacks for fresh fruits and vegetables.
  4. Plant a personal or community garden.
  5. Challenge each other to participate in healthy challenges such as a 5K or bike-athon.
  6. Find a walking or biking path.
  7. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  8. Park far away in the parking lot instead of the first close spot you find.
  9. Take excise breaks throughout the day to walk or stretch.
  10. Cook healthy dinners with family or friends instead of eating fast food.
  11. Create a list and plan meals before going grocery shopping.
  12. Pack healthy snacks like unsalted nuts or Greek yogurt.
  13. Try a new exercise such as swimming or yoga.
  14. Get an accountability partner to assist you in being healthier.
  15. Develop a list of short-term goals associated with being healthier.

You can combat youth obesity one step at a time. The first step is deciding to make healthy adjustments in your work, school and home life. Contact your local 4-H office if you are interested in learning more about healthy living programs.

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