Brendon Huttman, strength and conditioning coach of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Neil Walker, the Bucs’ starting second baseman, say an active lifestyle for school-age children can make a difference in their “battle of the bulge.”

More children than ever are struggling with weight and inactivity issues, so Huttman and Walker are speaking out to encourage kids to be more active, and urge parents to help them get at least a little activity every day. “There are a ton of benefits for the average kid,” says Huttman, who has been a professional baseball strength and conditioning coach for 15 years, the last three with the Pirates. “Activities help overall wellness, and help increase the ability to learn through focus and attention.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of American children and adolescents in 2012 were overweight or obese. The National Institutes of Health warns these conditions can lead to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, asthma, liver disease and cancer. And studies show high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels are on the rise in children. In today's wired technology, there is so much to district kids, Walker says. “They sit on the couch or on the floor with an iPad, video games or the big screen TV. Maybe kids are focused more on what the other kids are doing, and not going outside their comfort zone,” Walker says.

Kids have energy that needs to be directed to the right place, says Huttman, a father of three. This is where parents come into play. "Children model what you're doing," says Huttman, secretary of the Professional Baseball Strength and Conditioning Coaches Society. "It's critical to create an active lifestyle." Parents are the ones kids turn to for guidance, so model good behavior. "Parents create a foundation for kids to stay active and fit," Walker says. "Kids see Mom or Dad asleep on the couch before or after dinner. Go out and shoot hoops or throw a baseball. My family preached to me: Stay active.”

It can also help for children to look up to healthy mentors, such as athletes, who work consistently to find success on the field. “They need to have a good mentor such as Walker,” Huttman says. “He’s very focused on health and is motivated to set higher goals.”

If school sports aren’t your kid’s thing, encourage them to check out the many other options out there, especially during warm-weather months. Bike riding, swimming, basketball, baseball, ping-pong, a walk after dinner, even taking the dog for a walk can help keep kids off their devices, and on their feet. The resources are there, Walker says. Try church leagues, rec leagues, CYO leagues, and local YMCAs.

“Do a little bit six days a week,” he says. “It can be better than doing three days a week of an hour-long workout. If you’re not into sports, find something fun that keeps you moving and active.”

Huttman says students and adults need to consider what they put in their bodies. “We’re not a whole foods society,” Huttman says. “We’re faced with the out-of-the-bag challenge of things like fast foods. You need to make the best choice to fuel your body the right way. It may not be exactly a perfect choice, but you need to think about it.