Program Combats Obesity in Young Children, Teenagers
Video games, iPods and other technology have replaced playgrounds and ball fields as many American children continue to adopt sedentary lifestyles. Youngsters weigh more today than any generation in American history and childhood obesity has become a growing epidemic in the United States as approximately one-third of children are either obese or overweight.
The effects not only pose serious health risks like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, but emotional trauma as well. Many who battle to control their weight often develop low self-esteem and experience bouts of depression. Strive 2 Tri, based in Ft. Washington, Md., wants to buck the trend and tackle childhood obesity head on.
"It's important for us to get kids moving. Physical activity is one of the best remedies for obesity," said Strive 2 Tri founder Tarus Nelson, 38. "As long as our kids sit around in an inactive state, they set themselves up for weight gain and other physical problems. We must encourage our kids to get active and stay active."
A 2007 National Survey of Children's Health found 35.4 percent of District and 28.8 percent of Maryland children ages 10-17 to be overweight or obese, while the national average was 31.6 percent.
Strive 2 Tri is a non-profit organization that encourages children ages 7-17 to become and remain healthy through the multisport of triathlons – a multisport event that involves swimming, cycling and running over various distances.
On Saturday, September 1, Strive 2 Tri, with the support of local small businesses and other organizations, will sponsor "Splash-&-Dash" at the Ellen Linson Swimming Pool and Paint Branch Park in College Park, Md. Because of the large number of area children without bicycles, Strive 2 Tri has omitted the cycling portion from the competition and "Splash-&-Dash" will only consist of swimming and running.
"Even though I'm a tri-athlete, I don't mind that this event does not include cycling. I really like participating in multiple events, especially running," said Elise Johnson, 7, a Strive 2 Tri athlete who lives in the District. "I used to be a slow runner, but thanks to Strive 2 Tri, I'm much faster now. Also, I'm now faster on the bike. I'm really excited about 'Splash-&- Dash' and I would even like to do it again next year."
Splash-&-Dash aims to motivate children to become more active and to expose them to non-traditional sports. This dual-event competition is the first of its kind to be held in the area. Prior to the event's 8 a.m. start time, participants will receive a Splash-&-Dash T-Shirt and all who cross the finish line will receive a finishers' medal.
"I will miss the cycling part of the race because it gives me a chance to rest before and after the cycling portion," said 13-year-old Asia Nelson, the founder's daughter. "My favorite part of the race is swimming. Also, triathlon training has helped me to be more physically fit. I even loss some weight."
Strive 2 Tri further reinforces the values of charity while strengthening the community through monthly service projects.
"This will be my first time participating in a triathlon, even though it's a modified version. The fact that we won't be cycling doesn't bother me", said Desmond Robinson, 15, who lives in Oxon Hill, Md. "Having fun with people I know is what I like most about triathlon training. It exercises my body and my mind. With every training session, I improve more. Also, it's been a big boost for my self-esteem."
Nelson, a disabled veteran, founded Strive 2 Tri last year in an effort to expose African-American children to non-traditional sports like swimming and cycling. Nelson, who lives in Ft. Washington, Md., views it as a way of expanding children's horizons, given that most of them have already been exposed to football, basketball and baseball.
"I really enjoy being a tri-athlete. I like being a part of multiple races, like swimming and cycling," said Ethan Johnson, 9, who lives in the District. "Running is my favorite sport. The training has helped me to become healthier, faster and stronger."
Fifteen of Strive 2 Tri's young athletes will participate in the September event. All of the program's young members are from the District and Prince George's County, and it's the only youth triathlon program in the Washington metropolitan area. Nelson plans to boost membership and ultimately have it serve as a national model for youth triathlon training.
For additional information, visit the Strive 2 Tri website at: strive2tri.org