Annual Play-Day Has Serious Undertones

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Whoever said kids these days are lazy hasn't seen the bunch at Lansing's Westside YMCA.

"I like to try to keep fit so I can keep my body in shape and stuff, and so I won't sit on the couch all day and watch TV," said 11-year-old dancer Yasmina Taylor.

September 30 is the "Worldwide Day of Play"-- that's 24 hours devoted to getting kids out of the house and into fun, physical activities. The Y celebrated by offering extra classes to its younger clientele.

"You don't have to exercise and necessarily think of it as a chore," said Vivian Livanos, membership director at the Westside Y. "You can exercise and have fun, too. You can do dance, you can do karate, so our goal is to show exercise is healthy and you can do something fun in the meantime."

The boost in activities is a welcome--and needed-- addition for Michigan's growing tough.

"Michigan ranks third in childhood obesity," Livanos said. "We spend over $300 million alone in Ingham County to deal with youth health-related issues, and 9 million kids in Michigan alone are overweight and/or inactive.

"It's a huge issue."

Many health experts point to eating right as the main way to curb Michigan's large weight problem. But Livanos sees it differently.

"It works hand in hand. Parents are putting food on the table for the kids, and they need to make healthy decisions there. And kids are the ones who need to get ou and play more."

The Y estimates participation in youth exercise doubled Saturday. And numbers will keep climbing if the kids have anything to say about it.

"Yeah!" said Yasmina Taylor. "Do it! It's a lot of fun, it's a way to get active without knowing it, because it's fun!"

And what better day to do it than today.