The Anniston pediatric nurse practitioner for years has warned his patients at Pediatrics Plus about the dangers of obesity, unhealthy eating habits and an exercise-less life. Even so, Thomas estimates that 40 to 50 percent of his 1,500 child patients are either overweight or obese.
Thomas is tired of just the talk, so on Oct. 1, he’ll start a boot camp for kids — an exercise-intensive, 4-week program that will focus on teaching kids routines that involve a lot of jumping and high-intensity interval training.
“Telling them what to do — it gets them nowhere,” Thomas said. “Let’s all actually do it — I’ll do it. The parents can come, too.”
Thomas isn’t the only local kids health specialist with plans to combat the trend toward overweight and obese children — a trend that’s growing in Alabama, where 32.8 percent of high schoolers are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Anniston Pediatrics’ Dr. Lewis Doggett and nurse practitioner Linda White are in the midst of starting their own weight-loss clinic for kids. Their approach is different from the boot camp: The plans for the clinic hinge more on classroom-style sessions with a nutritionist, a dietitian and counseling using motivational interview techniques of open-ended questions and conversations.
Doggett had planned for that clinic to be under way by the end of August, but pulling all of the different components together has proved more difficult than he expected. Now, he’s aiming to have the pilot program up and running in a month — around the same time Thomas’ boot camp will start.
Both Thomas and Doggett said the existence of a variety of efforts to help local children make healthier choices is positive, constructive for the community.
“There’s a place for both of them,” Thomas said of his boot-camp and Anniston Pediatrics’ clinic. He expressed optimism about the renewed focus by local politicians and schools on targeting obesity issues.
“We … are all striving for the same goals,” Doggett said in an email.
About 80 people have signed up for the boot camp through Facebook, and Thomas hopes they’ll commit to the full program, and not drop out after the first session or two.
The fact that parents and kids can participate for free may help out with that. Thomas and his wife, Emily, a personal trainer, will hold the hour-long classes two days per week after work on their own time. They’re not going to worry about insurance reimbursement or charging families who want to participate.
“I’m going to front everything,” Thomas said, although he noted the only boot camp cost will be the time he puts into it.
The base workouts don’t require a lot of special equipment or space: Participants just need to show up with a towel and some water. The lawn at Pediatrics Plus’ East Ninth Street location will be enough room if the groups are small. If more people show interest, Thomas said, he’ll move the classes to a local park for more space to spread out.
The nurse practitioner hopes music and camaraderie will make the workouts fun, as will silly names he’s come up with for the exercises — think “rocket jumps” for squat jumps and “granddaddy long legs” for a lateral, side-to-side jump.
Additionally, a local nutritionist and physical therapist affiliated with Regional Medical Center has volunteered to help with training and food education components included in each session.
People interested in the boot camp can contact Thomas at his office at 256-241-2671 or by searching for “Pediatrics Plus” on Facebook.
Star staff writer Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @Csteele_star.