LEBANON, Mo. -- Before the sun rises and when most kids are just rolling out of bed, 11-year-old Alex Young is hitting the streets to exercise.
The Lebanon sixth-grader began his routine during the summer school's Get Mo Kids Moving program. He said the program showed such good results that it motivated him to continue.
"I am looking for a lifestyle change, not just quick weight loss," Young said. "It gives me more energy when I exercise in the morning."
Young has lost about 15 pounds since he began watching his diet and exercising four times a week. He said it wasn't easy after breaking his leg when summer school ended, but now that it's healed, he feels like getting back into the exercise routine.
"This is an enormous feat in light of the fact that obesity is becoming commonplace among our youth," said Sandy Trumbo, St. John's Hospital-Lebanon community liaison. "His testimonial will resonate [more] clear among his peers than anything an adult would have to say."
Students walked 30 miles during the Get Mo Kids Moving program this summer. Alex said peer pressure and name calling served as motivation to continue exercising after summer school was over.
"It hurts when people call me fat," Young said.
When the fall semester started, Alex, who lives about 20 miles outside of Lebanon, noticed he was sitting on the school bus an hour before school each day.
Instead of sitting, he asked his mother to drive him to Lebanon so they could walk.
Alex's mother, Loretta Young, is one of his biggest supporters. Loretta said exercise and diet have become family priorities.
"He is my inspiration," Loretta Young said. "He has helped me to exercise and eat better. The whole family has taken part."
Loretta said some of the changes are simple, such as drinking more water and reading food labels. She said one tip to feeling full is to drink 16 ounces of water before a meal and limiting servings to one plate of food.
They also are choosing to eat more salads, fewer fried foods and a small meal instead of a snack. Even though they are not diabetic, they choose to use a diabetic cookbook to watch carbohydrates.
"It's impossible for me to cut out all sweets," Loretta Young said. "But, instead of eating a full-sized candy bar, we eat a tiny one."
Part of their lifestyle change means no television or computer games two nights each week. Instead, Alex goes outside to play.
"It's really hard living out in the country," Alex Young said. "We don't have any neighborhood kids."
To help keep motivated, Alex has an exercise buddy. They walk and play games regularly.
"For me, it's better to have fun with friends because you exercise without even knowing it," Alex Young said.