STUTTGART, Germany -- This fall, children and teens can learn what it means to stay fit and practice healthy habits with the Child, Youth and School Services Youth Fitness Program.

The free program will focus on teaching youth about lifetime fitness through education and community-wide events.

"We want kids to know that being active is a part of being fun and being cool," said Jeff Carpenter, youth sports and fitness director.

The program will kick off with the "Laufen Sie AfA"ber Deutschland" (Walk Across Germany) event in October. Any child enrolled in School Age Services and Middle School Teen programs, and registered with CYS Services, can participate by enrolling at Central Enrollment and Registration, located on Patch Barracks.

The virtual hike requires students to wear a pedometer to count their steps and keep track of how many miles they walk each day. Middle and high school children will walk the distance from Berlin to Munich, earning prizes at each major "city" they reach. Younger, School Age Services children will take a shorter walk, equal to the distance between the four U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart installations. Registration for the walk begins this month.

The point of the event is to help get children in the habit of walking, said Caitlin Smith, youth sports and fitness specialist. "Walking is something you can do your whole life. You just need a new battery every once in a while for your pedometer," she added.

CYS Services staff members also plan to conduct special fitness-focused classes.

"As a society, our youth are less active," she added. "There's an obesity epidemic. We'd like to take a proactive role in combating this."

Smith plans to teach a "how to pack a healthy lunch" class. In the class, fitness staffers will look at the lunch selections children bring to school and discuss which choices are nutritious, and which items have a healthier alternative.

Smith also plans to give students tips for shopping in the commissary, such as sticking to the perimeter of the store, for foods that will help them stay fit.

"I would love for them to learn that they can take this fitness and do it throughout their lives," Smith added. "For the majority of our population, sports are something they can only do for so long, but fitness and healthy habits are things they can practice forever."

The program will also teach older children how to use the fitness centers, which can pose health and safety risks unless used properly, Smith added.Teens will learn basic gym etiquette, equipment know-how and safety, and how to create a personalized workout.

Another program for teens in the works, called "Gym Rats," will offer incentives to students who work out in the gym on their own, similar to the adult sports and fitness program, 'Fit for Life.'

Home-schooled co-op students will also receive weekly fitness training.

The new program will provide opportunities for children and teens to be more involved in community runs as well, such as the Great Pumpkin Run (Oct. 24) and America's Kids Run Day.