It's not just something we see or hear about on the news, childhood obesity is just as big an issue in the Mid-Columbia, but some doctors say it's been increasing rapidly here the last few years.

Dr. Sharon Ahart, pediatric and adolescent medicine specialist at Lourdes Medical Center in Pasco says it's a combination of poor diet and lack of exercise. According to several studies reported by KEPR-TV nearly 25% of teens in our area are considered overweight or obese.

Dr. Ahart says physical exercise programs in schools help, but it's not enough. While our schools DO meet the criteria for physical education mandated by the state, Ahart says children need more than two hours a week (the 100 minutes mandated in school).  She believes at least two hours a day, if possible, of activity, and more on the weekends.

It can be as simple as playing on a playground, running or walking with friends, riding a bike, or playing games.

Diet is also important, increasing fruits and vegetables, which experts say are usually most lacking in children's diets. Fruits can be used in place of some candy snacks, and can noticeably help children lose fat. Parents need to look over what their children are eating and adjust accordingly. You don't have to eliminate all treats, but replace some of them with healthier foods.

As a coach of youth sports for the last six years, KN Baseball and Kennewick Grid Kid Football, I have seen the remarkable transformations of some children. Some come in noticeably overweight, and have difficulty keeping up. But with work and effort, by the end of the season these kids are vastly healthier, faster, more coordinated, and most important, happier and healthier.

I've actually known at least 2-3 parents every year on football or baseball teams who purposely enrolled their children because they felt they were spending too much time not exercising, and were not in good shape.  Of course, we make sure the child is NOT over exerted, and we watch them carefully.  But kid's sports programs, regardless of whether they're competitive or recreational, are very beneficial.

But it really starts with putting down the remote, the cellphone, the video controller, and going outside and moving.  Once you accomplish that, the rest is a lot easier!