Exercise specialist Ashley Rainey, center, starts participants in the 'Cowboys Get Healthy, Get Fit' program with a 30-minute walk.
Jamie Belton-Patton and her 16-year-old daughter, Jordanay, are eating healthier and moving more because of their participation in the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences ‘Cowboys Get Healthy, Get Fit’ summer program.
The best part is that they are doing it together, she said.
“The idea behind ‘Cowboys Get Healthy, Get Fit’ is to involve the whole family in making lifestyle changes,” Sara Malone, program coordinator and dietitian, said. “If you can get the parents moving and role modeling physical activity, the kids will follow. The family walking program provides increased bonding opportunities and discussion between parents and their children.”
The 10-week ‘Cowboys Get Healthy, Get Fit’ program is an outreach program of the OSU-CHS Family Health and Nutrition Clinic. The clinic was established in 2009 to provide individualized, multidisciplinary support for overweight and obese children and their families.
Over the past 30 years, the rate of obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in teenagers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obese children and teens have a greater risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
‘Cowboys Get Healthy, Get Fit’ targets families with children between ages 10-16 and focuses on healthy lifestyle behaviors, such as eating more fruits and vegetables, reducing screen time, increasing physical activity, eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages and increasing physical activity. This summer, 15 families are participating in the program.
Every Thursday, parents and children begin the session with a half hour of walking. That is followed by separate nutrition class for children and adults and gym time with circuit training, boxing, Zumba and other exercises.
“I think it is really fun. My favorite part is the gym,” said 11-year-old Aaliyah Gonzalez. “I like it because we play games.”
Malone said one of the goals for all program participants is to get healthy enough and to develop enough stamina to enter Tulsa’s annual Firecracker 5K race on July 4. She expects that about 25 participants, family members and staff will walk or run in the 2016 race.
LaTosha Garcia and her 12-year-old twins, Karla and Karen, joined the summer program last year and competed in the Firecracker 5K together.
“We were so proud of ourselves,” she said. “We cheered each other along and it made us feel that what we had been doing in ‘Cowboys Get Healthy, Get Fit’ made a difference.”
Garcia and her daughters are back again this year. She said the program leaders have developed a safe environment for her children to learn important life lessons, such as buying healthy foods, eating correct portion sizes and exercising more by limiting television and video games.
This year, participants were offered pedometers to record their walking over each week. The pedometers are checked each session and children are excited to have reached their personal goals.
“It keeps them in action and motivated and gives them a reason to move,” Garcia said. “My girls love ‘Cowboys Get Healthy, Get Fit.’ This program is really improving their health and increasing their confidence.”
And Jordanay’s mother said that she received an unexpected bonus from participating in ‘Cowboys Get Healthy, Get Fit.’
“We talk more now,” Belton-Patton said. “This program has made us closer.”
Cowboys Get Healthy, Get Fit is a partnership between the OSU Center for Health Sciences, OSU Cooperative Extension Service and Tulsa Parks and Recreation. Fleet Feet Sports in Tulsa has been a program sponsor since 2011 and the entry fee for race participants and provides gift certificates as incentives.
For more information the OSU Family Health and Nutrition Clinic and its services, call 918-382-3100.