Youth Fitness Update: Spotlight on San Francisco

Thu, 27 Oct. 2011 - 3:50 p.m. MT
Credit: ARA Staff - American Running Association

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of overweight children ages 6 to 11 has more than doubled in the past 20 years. The Centers report that regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, reduces anxiety and stress, increases self-esteem, and may improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Plus, positive experiences with physical activity at a young age help lay the basis for being regularly active throughout life. As national awareness of childhood inactivity rises, we’ll look periodically at what local communities are doing to combat the trend and its devastating effects on our young people’s health.

In May the San Francisco Marathon announced plans for a new youth outreach called RunSFM. The program targets underprivileged youth ages seven to 17, inviting them to participate in its Progressive Marathon race without cost. Progressive Marathon participants run or walk a full marathon over a period of weeks or months. They then finish the final 3.1 miles on race day at the San Francisco Marathon in the marathon’s companion 5K run/walk. This year, that event is scheduled for Sunday, July 29.
 
An eight-week youth training program accompanies the Progressive Marathon, and is also free of charge for local youths. The RunSFM Youth Outreach waives race registration fees and grants official RunSFM t-shirts and finisher's medals. There are also seminars on nutrition and fitness made available to participants.

Meghan Steed, the director of RunSFM Youth Outreach says, "We're reaching out to the children of families who might not otherwise be able to afford to register for a running race. By partnering with local youth organizations we're hoping to help address issues of childhood obesity, and to show youngsters how to set and achieve goals in a fun way." The efforts of RunSFM appear to be among a growing body of local communities nationally that are combating obesity and overweight and consequently the problems they can lead to, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, knee and back problems, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular risk.

The San Francisco Marathon is unique in that it offers a way to support any of its more than 30 official charity organizations, a program called Cause to Run. Those who sign up for Cause to Run may designate their fund-raising efforts to RunSFM or any other charities of their choice. The program has raised over $2 million for local charities. Additionally, through the San Francisco Marathon's official training program, runners can join the RunSFM Youth Outreach Team, through which they raise money for youth outreach in exchange for a free 21-week training program. Charitable donors can also support RunSFM Youth Outreach, or any Cause to Run charity, without entering the marathon or companion events. This model makes it easy to donate, and will hopefully spread in popularity among marathons in cities throughout the US.

All children enrolled in RunSFM Youth Outreach, and all adults who sign up for the RunSFM Youth Outreach Team, will receive a training plan, coaching advice, and organized workouts through Athletic Endurance. Athletic Endurance's coaches will implement the 8-week youth program throughout the city of San Francisco starting June 4, 2007.

For more information about RunSFM Youth Outreach, Cause to Run, and registration for the San Francisco Marathon, visit www.runsfm.com.
 
(RUNNING & FITNEWS® April / May 2007 • Volume 25, Number 3)


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