Zillah: Making Fitness A Routine - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Zillah: Making Fitness A Routine

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ZILLAH, Wash. -- As the U.S. continues to battle what many call a childhood obesity epidemic, one local school is doing its part to make sure getting fit becomes a part of what their student's do every day.

Twenty percent, or 1 in 5 children in the U.S. will be defined as obese this year. That is 4 times the rate of the 1970s, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Seventy percent to 80% of obese children become obese adults.

"We are just trying to get the kids to see that fitness should be a priority in their lives," said fifth grade teacher Betty Collins.

Zillah Intermediate School has adopted a program called FitKids, which supplements the hour of PE students get a week with runs of a 1/4 mile to a 1/2 mile on most school days. The results in the student's mile run times have been dramatic.

"The kids really strive hard, really give an attempt to do better than they did before," said Zillah PE teacher Bob Burke.

Fifth grader Kelly Benson watched her mile time drop by more than 3 minutes since last year. "It feels really, really good just to see how much practice makes you better," said Benson.

Kelly's 5th grade class has run over 1,100 miles this year. Benson's teacher, Betty Collins, said seeing her studen's progress is exciting.

"That's a real reward for me to see some kids that started out lagging behind or maybe just walking it and the other kids give them that impetus to keep going and to get better," said Collins.

All that running is paying off. In Collins' class, 20 of 24 students have achieved the National or Presidential Award levels, meaning they are in the top 50% of kids their age, across the country.

"I've been in this school for 20 years and this is the highest, so it speaks volumes," says Burke.

All told, Zillah Intermediate students have logged over 8,500 miles this year. They are definitely heading in the right direction.