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Minnesota Vikings team up with U experts on 'fitness playbook' to prevent childhood obesity

Minnesota Vikings players join community kids for a swim to encourage exercise as part of the Vikings Fitness Playbook program.An alarming 32 percent of children today are considered overweight. About 16 percent are considered obese, and up to 6 percent are considered extremely obese.

These statistics carry considerable health implications. Obese children have an increased risk of prematurely developing many serious chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Thanks to a three-year gift commitment from the Minnesota Vikings and the Vikings Children’s Fund, experts at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital are addressing this issue through what they’re calling the Vikings Fitness Playbook—a weight management and physical fitness program designed to improve heart health and quality of life for children and families in Minnesota.

“We’re excited to support an endeavor that has the potential to change so many young lives,” says Lester Bagley‚ vice president of public affairs for the Vikings.

Through the Vikings Fitness Playbook, University physician-researchers hope to identify strategies that could help improve physical fitness and weight management in children and adolescents. They will employ nutrition education and counseling, behavioral management, structured physical activity, and regular contact with participants for nine months.

They’ll also teach families about factors such as unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles that contribute to children becoming overweight.

“We’re addressing the overall environment that’s contributing to the child’s obesity,” says Aaron Kelly, Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatric epidemiology and clinical research at the University. “We see this as crucial to long-term effectiveness and to increasing the chance that success will extend to the real world.”

In addition to funding the program, the Vikings are providing tangible encouragement. The team will motivate participants through player appearances at exercise sessions, visits to Winter Park, and more.

“We envision a continued partnership with the Vikings and others to expand this program to the community by promoting research findings and principles to help children and families lead healthier lifestyles,” says Kelly.

Through the Vikings Children’s Fund, the Vikings organization has supported innovative pediatric research and community partnerships with University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital for more than three decades.

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