Amazing Kids, Amazing Stories: Josselin's Story
Angelica Ceballos of Madison beams with pride as she chats up a visitor about her once sedentary, but now very active 7-year-old daughter Josselin.
"She used to eat a lot of cookies," Angelica says in Spanish while watching Josselin chase a soccer ball around a Madison school yard. "Now, she eats fruits and vegetables and can't stop moving! She plays soccer, runs, dances - and she doesn't get tired. She also has more confidence."
One of more than 400 patients who attends the UW Health Pediatric Fitness Clinic on Madison's west side, Josselin illustrates how much progress a child can make toward achieving a healthier lifestyle.
"Josselin is a wonderful child who really has fun while becoming more fit," says Sue Peterson, MS, exercise physiologist. "She also has a very committed family that is so proud of her. With more activity and a healthier diet, she has grown taller while maintaining her weight."
Aaron Carrel, MD, a UW Health pediatric endocrinologist and medical director of the Pediatric Fitness Clinic, says Josselin is one example of what the clinic can do for children who might be at risk of becoming overweight as they grow into adulthood.
"There are all kinds of kids like Josselin who just need a little direction to help achieve a healthier lifestyle," Carrel says. "She has really found the fun in fitness, and her family's support is truly invaluable."
A leading national researcher in pediatric fitness, Carrel was not willing to stand idly by and watch a generation of children reach epidemic proportions of obesity.
"It is no exaggeration to call this a crisis," Carrel says. "We have 25 million kids in this country who are either obese or overweight. If we don't turn these kids around, we will have staggering numbers of young adults at great risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes."
As the primary investigator of a published study that linked improved cardiovascular fitness and greater insulin sensitivity to a lifestyle approach to physical education, Carrel believes there are plenty of ways to recapture kids who have been turned off by traditional gym classes.
"We all remember the boys and girls who never got picked for team sports," Carrel says. "Our study demonstrated that individual life sports such as bicycling, walking or snowshoeing can strike a chord with kids who otherwise might tune out and become serious risks for irreversible obesity."
Carrel and his team are now working with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and local school districts in hopes of measuring students' fitness and introducing a lifestyle approach to physical education.
"Schools are clearly the best place to try and reach kids," Carrel says. "It is incredibly fulfilling to get them hooked on fitness before they graduate into the adult world, where old habits die hard."