Four Ways to STEP UP Childhood Obesity Prevention

National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month kicks off in September and now’s the time to step up childhood obesity prevention. But why do we need an entire month dedicated to this issue? Sadly, America’s childhood obesity epidemic is growing at an astonishing rate, with more than 31% of today’s adolescents considered obese or overweight. Although Colorado is considered the healthiest state in the nation for adults, the same cannot be said for its younger residents. According to a 2011 study conducted by The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, 10.9% of individuals between the ages of 10 and 17 in Colorado are considered obese. Even more astonishingly, the study found the childhood obesity rate in Arizona to be higher, with 19.8% of children in the same age group reportedly obese.

Learn four ways you can step up obesity prevention for National Obesity Awareness Month. The long-term effects of childhood obesity carry over into adulthood and can severely impact the quality of life for those affected. In fact, children and adolescents who are obese are at a greater risk of being overweight or obese as they enter adulthood. This increases the risk of developing health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, many types of cancer, and osteoarthritis later in life. Most frighteningly, many of the health effects of childhood obesity can be felt immediately, with 70% of obese youth possessing one or more risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

At Healthy LifeStars, we are committed to combatting childhood obesity through our proven program, The LifeStar Challenge. Every year, thousands of children throughout Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada benefit from The LifeStar Challenge; we hope to reach even more kids this year. Our program is only one element of our effort to eliminate childhood obesity. Raising awareness and providing education about childhood obesity are also vital to our mission.

With September marking National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, now’s the time for everyone—including you—to STEP UP and play an important role in childhood obesity prevention and awareness. Check out these 4 ways to take action.

1. Educate and motivate others to STEP UP against childhood obesity

By becoming more aware of the staggering statistics surrounding childhood obesity, you can be part of the solution. Follow us online on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to receive the latest studies and statistics about childhood obesity. Then, take action by supporting our STEP UP 4 KiDS Walkathon. Sign up to log your steps for an entire week—October 16-23—and encourage others to join with you. As you raise funds to support our proven program, The LifeStar Challenge, you’ll also be helping make others aware of the alarming childhood obesity epidemic that demands our attention and our action.

2. Support childhood obesity prevention efforts

When it comes to combatting childhood obesity, prevention is key. Promoting healthy eating habits, increasing physical activity, and establishing a positive body image are all simple steps that parents, teachers, and coaches can take to prevent this epidemic from growing even more out of hand. Research shows that children who are obese face a multitude of physical issues as well as psychological problems, including poor self-esteem and stigmatization.

While parents assume the primary responsibility for instilling the importance of healthy choices and an active lifestyle in their kids, schools and afterschool programs also play an integral role in the battle against childhood obesity. By building a supportive environment that focuses on improving and promoting overall health, school and afterschool programs, like The LifeStar Challenge, provide kids with opportunities to not only learn about, but also practice healthy habits that incorporate fun and fitness.

What can you do in your community to support or introduce programs like The LifeStar Challenge that work to fight childhood obesity?

3. Lead by example

We’ve all been there—gobbling down at-our-finger-tips processed foods rather than whole, “clean” healthy choices. With busy work schedules, good intentions quickly go out the window. Whether you are a parent, a teacher, or a neighbor, you can set a good example for our youngest generation by making healthy choices every day. Rather than indulge in a fifth cup of coffee or afternoon soda, choose water. Healthy eating choices are not just limited to what you eat—you also need to keep in mind how and when you eat. This article offers 9 tips on breaking bad eating habits.

And let’s not forget about fitting regular exercise into your routine. Starting your day with a walk, run, or workout can be a great way to lead by example before your kid, or the kid next door who is taking notes, rolls out of bed. You’ll be cooling down and heading off to shower as they wake up and realize you have just gotten a jump start—literally—on a healthy, active day.

Do you always have wine on Wednesdays or go out to a movie on the weekend? What about ordering pizza on Fridays? While those traditions are fun, creating healthy habits can be much more rewarding for you and our youngest generation. Why not make participating in our STEP UP 4 KiDS Walkathon part of your healthy habits? Kids 17 and under participate for free and adult participation only costs $25, for what’s sure to be one of the most active weeks of your life.

Whether eating, working out, or creating fun traditions, you set an example for kids, so take your role seriously.

4. Give your time, talent, or treasure to fighting childhood obesity

Everyone has a gift to contribute to the battle against childhood obesity. Whether you are a talented chef with healthy recipes to share, a passionate fitness professional ready to motivate our youngest generation to move, or a volunteer looking to get involved with an organization that makes a difference, you can STEP UP against childhood obesity in meaningful ways.

Step-Up-4-Kids_logo_Digital_FINAL-nobackgroundHealthy LifeStars is always looking for support—through donations, your time, or your talent. So whether you want to participate in our STEP UP 4 KiDS Walkathon, donate an item for us to auction off at our annual celebration fundraiser event on November 9th, bring The LifeStar Challenge to a community near you, serve on a committee or advisory board, or make a monetary donation, your contribution will help fight childhood obesity. Contact us today to help ensure our kids grow up healthy and active!




photo credit: Girl on Stairs via photopin (license)

By | 2017-03-14T18:30:25-07:00 August 19th, 2016|Blog, Obesity Information|0 Comments

Limit Screen Time, Reduce Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is increasing as screen time increases. Learn the risk factors and how to make sure children grow up healthy and active. The digital age has its advantages. Yet, our children, who have never known a life without iPhones and tablets at their disposal, are at greater risk of obesity, learning disabilities, social engagement issues, and more because of it.

The Weight Of Too Much Screen Time

While these side effects of screen time are cause for concern, equally important to note is that as screen time has gone up in the US, so, too, have childhood obesity rates. From 1980 to 2012, obesity rates among US children ages 6-11 more than doubled while obesity rates among US adolescents ages 12-19 more than quadrupled during the same time period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Not coincidentally, there has been an increase of more than 2.5 hours spent in front of a screen during the past decade.

According to research gathered by the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC), they found that children consume an additional 167 calories for every hour of television viewed per day. While diet and physical activity are directly correlated with the overall health and wellbeing of school-age children, extracurricular activities and hobbies—including time spent in front and away from digital devices—are clearly key factors in reducing and preventing the escalation of childhood obesity.

Studies suggest that young children who spend a limited amount of time watching television not only tend to make healthier meal choices, but also are more likely to engage in physical activity at home as well as in school.

In small doses, tablets and educational television programs can help children develop coordination, improve reflexes, and enhance language skills, among other things. However, it’s important to encourage children to live an active lifestyle away from the virtual world.

How much screen time is safe?

Unfortunately, there’s no secret number. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to 1 to 2 hours per day for children ages 2 and older. However, this article posted on makes a valid argument that “recreational” screen time should be limited and that two hours per day is no longer realistic.

What do you think? We would love to hear your thoughts about screen time and its impact on childhood obesity. Please comment below.


photo credit: iPhone work via photopin (license)

By | 2017-03-14T18:30:25-07:00 August 17th, 2016|Blog, Obesity Information|0 Comments

Childhood Obesity Linked to Cancer, Stroke in Adulthood

Childhood obesity has been linked to colon cancer and stroke in early adulthood. Learn how you can help end the epidemic. As you likely know, Healthy LifeStars focuses on reducing the prevalence of childhood obesity through our proven program, The LifeStar Challenge.  Understanding the realities of childhood obesity are critical as we aim to draw attention to and support for our work — we know that good fitness, nutrition, and goal-setting habits early in life can reduce a child’s risk of developing obesity. But why is it so important to combat childhood obesity?

Jane E. Brody of The New York Times brings much-needed attention to the childhood obesity epidemic in her blog post, “The Urgency in Fighting Childhood Obesity,” by shedding light on the harsh realities and life-threatening risks obesity places on our children and their health. Several studies that Brody cites in her piece outline new risk factors associated with childhood obesity, including:

  • An increased risk of developing colon cancer
  • An increased risk of experiencing a stroke in early adulthood

Read Brody’s complete blog post about childhood obesity and share the post with others. The more people who understand the urgency in fighting childhood obesity, the better the likelihood that people will take preventative measures—like supporting proven obesity prevention programs like The LifeStar Challenge—to ensure our youngest generation grows up healthy and active.


By | 2017-03-14T18:30:25-07:00 July 22nd, 2016|Blog, Obesity Information|0 Comments

Standing desks could solve two huge childhood health issues

With schools ditching recess and gym class, the amount of physical activity kids get during the school day has dropped dramatically. Now one school has implemented a clever solution that has helped ease not one, but two problems kids are facing.

Vallecito Elementary School in San Rafael, California has already switched 19 out of 22 classrooms from traditional desks with chairs to standing desks (the last three will be converted by the end of the year). And while it took some getting used to, for both teachers and students, the benefits are already clear.

Photo credit: CBS News

Photo credit: CBS News

One student said it best: “It burns off a lot of my energy so I can concentrate without wiggling in the chairs,” Meadow McPherson told CBS News.

The principal of the school, Tracy Smith, said that shortly after kids started using the standing desks they became more productive and more focused, and studies do show that allowing kids movement throughout the day can improve grades by a solid 15 percent. Added bonus: It can also help kids burn up to 25 percent more calories than sitting all day.

In fact, a study released last January shows that sitting for prolonged periods of time, like most school-aged children do, can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer even if those people also get regular exercise.

So standing desks could be a huge boom for kids, many of whom are estimated to spend a shocking 65-70 percent of their days sitting. And according to a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, kids assigned to standing desks also increased their step counts.

It works for adults, too. Maybe the whole family can get started doing their homework together standing at the kitchen counter!

What do you think? Do you think your kids are fine using traditional desks, or could benefit from using a standing desk?

By | 2017-03-14T18:30:25-07:00 November 4th, 2015|Blog|0 Comments

STEP UP 4 KiDS End of Challenge Celebration 2015

Check out some of these awesome photos from our STEP UP 4 KiDS End of Challenge Celebration!

We had a great time hitting golfballs at Fiesta Bowl‘s Spirit, bidding on some wonderful live and silent auction items, listening to how Healthy LifeStars impacts our own Valley children, and donating to such a great cause! With Lin Sue Cooney as our MC, Tom Lehman as our Honorary Chair, Bobby D. as the auctioneer, and some of our own LifeStars taking the stage… it was a truly a night to remember!

A special thank you goes out to our volunteers, sponsors, and supporters! Thanks to everyone’s hard work and support, we were able to raise over $46,000 for Healthy LifeStars to be available to more children across the Valley and beyond!


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By | 2017-03-14T18:30:25-07:00 October 28th, 2015|Blog|0 Comments

Kassidy and Kaprice have set their goal of 1 million steps… and the common goal to beat each other!


LifeStars Kassidy and Kaprice’s hard work is paying off… These 13 year-old twins are participating in the STEP UP 4 KiDS Challenge this week and racking up some serious steps! The Challenge began on Monday, October 12, and by 8 a.m., they already took more steps than most people will have taken in a week.

Kassidy and Kaprice ran 12 miles around their neighborhood, and then took their dogs and younger brother Francisco for a 2-mile walk (you know… to “cool down”). On average, there are about 2,000 steps in 1 mile, so before 8 a.m., these young ladies took over 28,000 steps!

Check out their segment from EVB Live on 12 News yesterday! Way to go, LifeStars!!!

By | 2017-03-14T18:30:25-07:00 October 14th, 2015|Blog|0 Comments

10,000 steps a day made easy

We’ve all heard the “10,000 steps a day” rule, right? In the 1960s, pedometers were sold in Japan and marketed to encourage users to take 10,000 steps each day to remain healthy. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends only 7,000 to 8,000 steps a day, why stop there? Try to challenge yourself and increase those steps, day by day, week by week!


10,000 steps is roughly 5 miles, which for some sounds very intimidating! Lets break down those steps into more of an approachable goal….

  1. The coffee shop down the street is 2 miles away, and walking there and back is already 80% of your 10,000 steps challenge. By the time you finish your latte on the walk home, you will have already burned off the calories!
  2. For your next work meeting or conference call, if you can step away from the computer, try taking a walk. Just 30 minutes of walking at a pace of 3 mph can knock out 3,000 steps!
  3. Instead of sinking into the couch after dinner, take a walk with the family. Explore your neighborhood and rack up more steps.
  4. Start the day by walking the dogs around your neighborhood. Especially for those of us living in Phoenix, until the weather cools down a little more, early mornings and late nights are the only bearable times to be outside. Let the dogs direct you around the neighborhood and enjoy some music on your headphones.
  5. Stuck in the office all day? Take the stairs instead of the elevator! Take an average flight of stairs (15 steps), times four flights for your office on the 4th floor. Multiply that by six (going up, down and back up for lunch, down and back up for a break, and back down once the day is over). That gives you almost 400 steps in just stairs alone! Tack on another couple hundred for to and from the car and to and from the stairwell.

For all of these ideas and more, check out The Walking Site’s suggestions.

How do you reach your step goal in your daily routine?

By | 2017-03-14T18:30:25-07:00 October 7th, 2015|Blog|0 Comments

Healthy LifeStars teaches that mental strength is just as important as physical strength

As we are gaining more Valley-wide support of Healthy LifeStars through our upcoming event STEP UP 4 KiDS, we though it would be best to re-introduce our program. Kara Cline, Salvation Army Healthy LifeStars Program Director, and Nick Reyes, Salvation Army Healthy LifeStars Program Manager, explain exactly what Healthy LifeStars does for kids across the Valley.


Depending on The Salvation Army location, the children arrive after school, have a quick snack, complete their homework (with tutoring available), and participate in Healthy LifeStars for roughly an hour.

The basic structure of the program varies at each site, but the core values, known as Healthy Life Habits, are all the same:

1. I Can Do It!
2. I’m Active!
3. I Eat Right!

In a nutshell, Healthy LifeStars teaches children how to eat nutritiously, live more actively, and set healthy goals.

The kids are motivated to participate by the simple fact that the program and activities are fun.

“The kids are playing, they don’t consider it exercising,” Cline said. “They’re having a ball!”


The coach determines which of the Healthy Life Habits will be taught in each session and models the whole hour around it. For example, if the focus is on “I’m Active!” the children might engage in activities that involve running or swimming. Different amenities are available at each location… Some have a swimming pool or rock-climbing wall, while others are located at a park. Still, coaches are trained to adapt and realize the location’s potential.

“They make it work with what they have,” Reyes said. “The program is very flexible and that’s how it’s been successful.”

Cline and Reyes know first-hand how Healthy LifeStars operates and why it works; they taught the program last Spring at The Salvation Army’s Citadel location.

Now, Cline and Reyes train all coaches (after-school staff, Salvation Army “troops” and officers, and volunteers) and frequently visit each site to check in with them. The two have been with the program for one year.


While eating healthy and being physically active through goal-setting are the key points of this organization, Cline and Reyes agree that there is more to Healthy LifeStars.

The program, though only for one hour a day, teaches children how to take care of themselves and claim responsibility for their own actions.

“We give them the tools to take care of themselves. What they do to their body affects their soul,” Cline said.

“We aren’t just teaching them how to build muscle, we build confidence and stronger souls,” Reyes said.

By | 2017-03-14T18:30:26-07:00 September 24th, 2015|Blog|0 Comments

An open letter to parents about the overprescribing of antibiotics

You’ve heard about the dangers of antibiotic overuse. But new evidence suggests that giving antibiotics to infants under 6 months old may actually lead to obesity later in childhood.

A new study, which looked at more than 10,000 children, was published in the International Journal of Obesity and found that children who were overweight were those exposed to antibiotics from birth to 5 months old. Antibiotic-exposed infants were 22% more likely to be overweight by the time they were toddlers.

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While the researchers are careful to insist that the findings do not prove causation, it certainly shows a correlation that needs to be further explored.

“We typically consider obesity an epidemic grounded in unhealthy diet and exercise, yet increasingly studies suggest it’s more complicated,” Leonardo Trasande, ND, MPP, the lead author of the study, said. “Microbes in our intestines may play critical roles in how we absorb calories, and exposure to antibiotics, especially early in life, may kill off healthy bacteria that influence how we absorb nutrients into our bodies, and would otherwise keep us lean.”

For years, doctors and members of the scientific community have been warning us about the dangers of antibiotic overuse, especially in young children. But this research suggests a direct link between increased body weight in children and antibiotic usage in babies.

“For many years now, farmers have known that antibiotics are great at producing heavier cows for market,” Jan Blustein, MD, PHD, and co-author of the study, concluded. “While we need more research to confirm our findings,, this carefully conducted study suggests that antibiotics influence weight gain in humans, and especially children too.”

Dr. Mark Gettleman, MD, FAAP and founder of Dr. Goofy GettWell, a mobile and telemedicine pediatric practice, suggests that parents stop pressuring doctors to prescribe antibiotics.

“Don’t insist that your doctor give you an antibiotic when your baby has a cold or a runny nose,” Dr. Gettleman said. “Oftentimes, doctors feel pressured by parents to prescribe antibiotics when they are not necessary. See a doctor you trust and then tell him or her that you do not want antibiotics unless it is absolutely necessary. Besides the dangers of antibiotic resistant superbugs, we are seeing more and more ill effects of antibiotic overuse in babies and young children. Parents can easily be part of the solution by informing their healthcare provider that they do not believe in antibiotics as a go-to solution for whatever is ailing their infant.”

So parents, be cautious when taking your infants to the doctor. Antibiotics are useful and necessary when a bacterial infection has invaded your baby’s body, but most colds and infections are viral and will only improve with time, rest and the body’s natural ability to fight illness.

By | 2017-03-14T18:30:26-07:00 September 17th, 2015|Blog|0 Comments

Can “Healthy Happy Meals” help curb childhood obesity?

A New York City council member is proposing a law that would dictate the nutritional content of children’s fast food meals, but the changes would barely make a dent in the fat and sodium content actually ingested.

New York City council member Benjamin Kallos proposed the Healthy Happy Meals bill which would require children’s fast food meals marketed with toys to include a serving of fruit, vegetables or whole grain, contain fewer than 10% of calories from saturated fat or added sugar, and they can’t have more than 600 milligrams of sodium, with no more than 35% of calories coming from fat. Sounds like a great start, but will it actually make a difference?


According to one study, no. When researchers looked at buying patterns, they came to the conclusion that the change would only result in a 9% drop in calories consumed and a 10% drop in sodium consumption and calories from fat. Plus, only 1/3 of fast food meals ordered for children were actually Happy Meals or similar meal deals. More often, kids were eating items off the regular menu, to which the new rules would not apply.

However, the study’s lead author says any change is a good one, even if the results are minimal.

“No single policy is going to be enough by itself to counteract childhood obesity,” Brian Elbel, associate professor of population health and health policy at the NYU School of Medicine, told Forbes.”But we’re not looking for a single slam-dunk. What we’re looking for is any potential movement or calorie reduction. Any change in a more healthful direction has to be a good thing.”

Regardless of how effective the changes would be, the good thing is that people are truly starting to sit up and take notice of how marketing is directing kids to bad food choices, and legislation is beginning to affect this. The Healthy Happy Meals bill is just one of many that proposed chances in what restaurants are trying to sell us, with mixed success. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s failed attempt to ban the sale of giant sodas was national news, but the FDA successfully banned trans fats in June.

What can you do to help your kids make good food choices when eating out? Encourage them to choose water over juice or soda and fruit, like apple slices, over french fries. Keep fast food meals to a minimum and make them more about having a once-in-a-while treat instead of a regular convenience.

By | 2017-03-14T18:30:26-07:00 September 9th, 2015|Blog|0 Comments