Kids ‘Step’ Into Better Health With Alternative Exercise Activity


National stepping program continues STEP UP to Health program to lower the obesity epidemic among school-aged children

Nashville, TN (January 24, 2012)—The Metro Public Health Department and Nashville Parks and Recreation Department continue its partnership with the National Step Show Alliance to provide local community centers with the healthy lifestyle initiative, STEP UP to Health.   With a focus on providing a healthy exercise alternative to middle and high school students the program will officially kick off this step season on January 30 at the following community centers: Antioch, Hadley/Lead Academy, Looby, Hartman, Easley, Nashville Prep, Madison, Parkwood, Morgan, and S. Inglewood.

“With each of our initiatives it is important that we provide a program that fits into our national mission which is to increase the appreciation of the stepping art form with a healthy approach,” shares Executive Director, Keith Belton.  He goes on to say, “As we ‘step’ into our eighth season and our third partnership year we are stepping up our challenge to be a part of the solution to obesity in our home city of Nashville and our affiliate teams across the country.”

The STEP UP to Health Program works to increase physical fitness, with the ultimate goal of diabetes and obesity prevention, through the art form of traditional "Step Dancing". STEP UP is a highly aerobic physical activity that engages youth in a fun and competitive manner, while creating discipline and structure.  Along with teaching step, each week, local college students and NSSA staff will be on-hand to provide educational training in nutrition, prevention, and other health-focused areas.

NSSA Board Member and Pediatrician, William Lawrence, MD states, “In the last 20 years, the Center for Disease Control has reported a massive increase in the prevalence of obesity among youth and African-Americans; almost doubling in numbers from 10.7% to 19.8% among non-Hispanic black boys and 16.3% to 29.2% among non-Hispanic black girls.”  Lawrence continues, “Video games and television are among the factors that have led to a more sedentary lifestyle in today’s youth.  Encouraging physical activity is the key to promotion of better health and stepping provides a unique and engaging platform to encourage such activity.”

Stepping, made popular by African American sororities and fraternities, is an elaborate synchronized group of routines which usually consist of drill team and call and response themed movements.  The participants of the STEP UP to Health Program and other NSSA programs will compete in the seventh annual national step show held March 10 at Belmont University.  Teams from across the country will compete to win a host of prizes and titles.

For more information on program involvement or to learn of other NSSA programs please visit  The organization can also be found on Facebook.

About the National Step Show Alliance

The National Step Show Alliance (NSSA) is a non-profit organization that uses step dance as a means to provide physical activity and academic achievement for at-risk youth.  Started in 2004, the national organization works with teams all across the country creating a platform and curriculum for the development of healthy programs.  On a local level, NSSA has partnered with the Metro Parks Department, Metro Health Department, and Fisk’s HBCU Wellness project to sponsor youth step teams at ten community centers across Davidson County.   The majority of the coaches in the Davidson County program are college and graduate students at Fisk, Meharry, Tennessee State and Vanderbilt.  NSSA is also in Georgia, Texas, and Missouri. For more information visit


We are seeking coverage for the program and encourage on-site interviews with program organizer, Keith Belton, local coaches, and/or youth participating in the program.  To schedule an interview please contact Kia Jarmon, or 615.592.6377.

The statistics above are outlined here from the Center for Disease Control:

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) by Centers for Disease Control

Between 1988-1994 and 2007-2008 the prevalence of obesity increased (Figure 2):

  • From 11.6% to 16.7% among non-Hispanic white boys.
  • From 10.7% to 19.8% among non-Hispanic black boys.
  • From 14.1% to 26.8% among Mexican-American boys.

Among girls in the period 2007-2008, non-Hispanic black adolescents (29.2%) were significantly more likely to be obese compared with non-Hispanic white adolescents (14.5%). Similarly, non-Hispanic black adolescent girls (16.3%) were more likely to be obese compared with non-Hispanic white adolescent girls (8.9%) in the period 1988-1994.

Between 1988-1994 and 2007-2008 the prevalence of obesity increased (Figure 3):

  • From 8.9% to 14.5% among non-Hispanic white girls.
  • From 16.3% to 29.2% among non-Hispanic black girls.
  • From 13.4% to 17.4% among Mexican-American girls.

Note: the childhood obesity rate for African-American kids (24.5%) is 60% higher than that of white youth (15.6%) in 2008.