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One of the biggest issues facing youth today is childhood obesity, an epidemic that is all-too-common in the Mid-South.

To help combat this growing problem, last year the Memphis Grizzlies created the Get Fit with the Grizzlies program, designed to teach kids about getting active, eating right and making healthy choices in life. Sponsored by Turner Dairies, Cargill, the Memphis Heart Clinic and Coventry Health Care, the program reaches thousands of Mid-South students.

There are several components to the Get Fit with the Grizzlies program, the biggest of which is the Grizzlies Fitness Challenge. The Challenge included fourth and fifth grade students from over 100 Memphis and Shelby County elementary schools. Every day over the course of the six-week Challenge students kept track of how many servings of food and drinks from the Food Pyramid they consumed, along with how many minutes of physical activity they participated in. At the end of the challenge, the schools who had the best scores received special prizes and awards.

Some of the schools that participate in the Fitness Challenge also host Grizzlies Fitness Assemblies where Grizzlies players, coaches, trainers and dance team members work with the kids to promote physical fitness. The Grizzlies also host an Achievement Day at the end of the season at FedExForum for all of the kids who participated during the year.

In addition to the Fitness Challenge, the Grizzlies have hosted annual coaches’ clinics, where Grizzlies coaches and trainers give tips on how coaches can improve the physical conditioning of their young athletes. Furthermore, grizzlies.com features healthy recipes and fitness tips.

The sponsors of Get Fit with the Grizzlies provide critical assistance in making the program possible, as they share the Grizzlies’ enthusiasm in trying to combat childhood obesity.

"Cargill strongly supports that the Get Fit with the Grizzlies program because it encourages children to be physically active and to closely monitor what they eat. Since children often carry the habits they learn in childhood into adulthood, encouraging them to acquire healthy dietary and exercise habits as children may lead them to continue these healthy habits as adults," said Chris Foster, Environmental Manager for Cargill Inc.

"Coventry Healthcare is excited to support the Get Fit with the Grizzlies program, as we understand and are committed to the importance of kids establishing good habits early on and getting them to exercise and eat properly. Many kids feel that exercising and eating the right foods is only for grown-ups. This program offers the opportunity to learn the importance of a healthy lifestyle while having fun doing it," said John R. (Bob) Bruce, Executive Director, Coventry Health Care.

“As cardiologists, we see how prevention plays an important role in protecting us from cardiovascular disease. The Get Fit with the Grizzlies program teaches youth the importance of healthy living, which gives our community a brighter future,” said Joseph Samaha, MD, Memphis Heart Clinic.

More information about the Get Fit with the Grizzlies program.