The YMCA of the Capital Area is working to help families understand the role that weight perception plays in childhood obesity and ways to reverse its course through increased physical activity and improved eating habits during September’s Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

To get youth excited about becoming healthy, a free Kid Fit class for children ages 7 to 11 begins at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 3 at the Americana Y, 4200 Liberty Way, Zachary.

According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, about 30 percent of children and teens age 8 to 15 in the U.S. misperceive their weight, with about 81 percent of overweight boys and 71 percent of overweight girls believing they are about the right weight.

If unchecked, obesity puts children at risk for chronic diseases seen in adults, such as high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, a news release said.

“The best way to find out if your child’s weight might be affecting their health is to visit your pediatrician or primary health care provider,” said Kristen Hogan, of the YMCA of the Capital Area. “Once a family understands any weight-related risks, they can work together to incorporate more physical activity and healthy eating habits into their daily routines.”

Tips on getting, keeping fit

EATING HEALTHY: Families should make water their drink of choice, supplemented by age-appropriate portions of 100 percent fruit juices and low-fat milk; fill half of plate with colorful options of fruits and vegetables; mix and match fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables to provide variety.

PLAYING DAILY/GOING OUTDOORS: Youth should have at least one hour a day of unstructured playtime outdoors (when possible) and break a sweat at least three times a week by getting 20 minutes or more of vigorous physical activity.

GETTING TOGETHER: Eat as a family as frequently as possible with children involved in meal preparation and cleanup.

REDUCING SCREEN TIME: Limit time spent in front of cellphone (playing games), computer, tablet, television and video games to two hours a day.

SLEEPING WELL: Youth should get 10 to 12 hours of sleep per night and adults seven to eight.

To create healthy environments for all children regardless of size, the Y is implementing Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards in its before- and after-school programs as part of a commitment to the Partnership for a Healthier America.

For information on the Kid Fit class in Zachary, call (225) 654-9622. To learn more about the Y or more healthy tips for families, visit ymca