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Join the Early Years Fit Generation: Fight the Obesity Crisis

Time to move it, move it

That's the bad news. Now here's the good: It's totally possible to get an idling kid in gear—off the couch, away from the screen, out the back door—and the preschool years are the best time to do it. "This is the age when bad and good habits take hold. If a preschooler is outside running and jumping and playing on a daily basis, then when he's nine and ten and older, he'll feel the need to go out and move," says Jennifer Helmcamp, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Texas A&M Health Science Center at Round Rock and Conley Raidt's pediatrician.

Dr. Helmcamp recommends commonsense dietary changes (more fruits and veggies, fewer carbs, water instead of juice); a family-wide approach to healthy eating; and an emphasis on outdoor play. In the year that Conley's been in the care of Dr. Helmcamp, her BMI has crept down steadily, from 19.9 to 17.6, and she's no longer considered obese, although she's still in the overweight range. "If she continues doing as well as she's been doing, I expect her to be at a normal BMI in another year," says Dr. Helmcamp, who stresses that for a kid Conley's age, the goal isn't to shed pounds but to maintain her current weight so that as she gets taller, she actually grows into it.

Parenting would like to see more kids beat obesity or avoid it in the first place, and simply get their fair share of activity. So starting now, we're issuing a call to action: For the next three months, we'll provide all the info and ammo you need in our Fit Generation program. Up first: getting a handle on your child's activity level with the Is Your Kid Active Enough Questionnaire.