Taking steps + tracking distance = healthy fun at Sequoia - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Taking steps + tracking distance = healthy fun at Sequoia Schools

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MESA, Ariz. -

It's one of the biggest health issues facing our country -- childhood obesity. The government estimates one-third of children or adolescents are overweight or obese.

Now, a new program being funded by United Healthcare is helping students learn at any early age how to stay active and healthy.

"We play softball, we play fun stuff like Frisbee," says Ella Woiking.

"Capture the flag," adds Kenadee Cochran.

"My favorite game to play - I got a lot!" says Ray Zapien.

At Mesa's Sequoia Schools, some lucky kids are getting a chance to play a lot of different games. The kids are taking part in a program called THANX -- which stands for "Think Healthy about Nutrition and Exercise."

The students picked for the program are given a pedometer.

"It's a thing that counts your steps," says Dawson Cochran.

And they're racking up some big numbers.

The students add up their steps, and each week their steps are converted into a distance. That distance is put on a map.

The goal -- to take the number of steps needed to get to New York City. So far, the students have reached New Mexico.

The program's coordinator says it's also helping students with their math.

"A certain amount of steps equals a certain amount of miles, so when they start putting two and two together it makes more sense to them and makes them more motivated to continue on and not want to stop," says Cedric Woodard, Sequoia Schools Health Awareness Director.

United Healthcare hopes the students take what they're learning home with them.

"The goal of the program is to get them to start thinking about what they're doing and to get them actively involved, like you see them doing today, and then they take the message home to their parents as well and it kind of spreads through the neighborhood. The other kids see what's going on," says Cheyenne Autumn.

Students are also given prizes along the way to help motivate them.

The program's director says he's seen noticeable changes in morale and improvements on how students interact with each other.

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