OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - It's not the traditional hotdog and hamburger 4th of July for the many participants at the Ocean Springs YMCA's Annual Wesson Memorial Run. Instead of BBQ and chips, the group spent their morning on a two-mile or 3/4 mile trek to good health.
With Mississippi leading the nation in obesity once again, it's the type of activity our state desperately needs.
"If you don't want to do it for yourself, think about your children, your grandchildren, setting good habits for them now," said Joey Conwill, Fitness Director at the YMCA. "If they get good habits when they're young, they will follow them through their lives. And they won't have the problems that our adults are having now."
YMCA staff have several ideas why some Mississippians struggle with their health.
"Kids sitting on the couch not getting active like we did when we were kids," said Robyn Johnson, an areobics instructor. "We were shoved out the door and told to go play."
Conwill believes its could be a result of our hectic lifestyles.
"It's easier to get in your car and go somewhere," Conwill said. "We don't think about walking. It's just, we want to get somewhere fast."
But they said getting healthy doesn't have to slow you down. In fact, there are plenty of South Mississippi success stories. One of those is the story of Lara Jordan and her 7-year-old twin daughters Kalie and Kasey. They attended the YMCA's health and wellness camp for children
"We've recently gotten really active and started excercising and changing our eating habits," said Jordan. "And we've all lost weight as a family. And eating good food, making good choices, it makes you feel better."
Fitness experts say all kinds of habits, from taking the stairs to running miles, can make a difference.
"Everybody can do it," Conwill said. "Get out and excercise. You don't have to get out for hours and be miserable."
They said Mississippi's health challenges can be overcome, one step at a time.
"It's just a matter of getting out and doing it," Conwill said. "I think we can definitely turn this around."
She said one way to take care of the issue is to start teaching children early. Health education is at your children's fingertips in many places, including the YMCA.
"We have classes," Conwill said. "Right now, we have a kids' health and wellness camp. It runs weekly until the end of the summer. It helps kids develop some healthy habits."