Idon't know about you, but I must have eaten a thousand cookies over the holidays. So, like plenty of people at the beginning of the new year, I'm making a resolution to try to get into better shape in 2003.

Sad to say, lots of Americans should make the same resolution. A recent study says that about 50 million Americans are "obese." Whether someone is obese is complicated, but basically it means that the person weighs too much for how tall they are. Being obese isn't healthy.

Lots of kids are out of shape too. The percentage of overweight kids between ages 6 and 11 has doubled in the last 20 years. The percentage of overweight teenagers has tripled.

How did everyone get so big? Simple: We eat way too much and we exercise way too little. So those of us who want to get in better shape this year might have to change a few things.

Now I am not saying that you have to go on a diet so that you look like a movie star or a skinny fashion model. If you get into some very simple habits in the new year, you will feel better, be healthier and maybe even improve at the sports you play.

What are the habits?

1Stay away from fast-food places. If you have to go to one, don't get anything that is "super-sized."

Every month, 90 percent of the kids between the ages of 3 and 9 eat fast food. The problem is that much of it is filled with fat, sugar and salt. And there's just too much food. The average person needs to eat about 2,000 calories for an entire day to stay healthy. One of those huge fast-food meals can total 1,550 calories.

2Cut down on sodas and sweets. The Department of Agriculture estimates that as many as 85 percent of American kids drink soda every day. They shouldn't. Water and milk are much healthier.

Stay away from the candy from the vending machines and snack bars that you can find in many schools. Just like fast-food places, candy companies have been super-sizing chocolate bars in the last few years.

3Watch less television. Watching TV may not seem to have much to do with staying healthy. But think of it, when you are watching the tube, you are usually just sitting there doing nothing. Or worse, maybe you're snacking on chips while drinking a soda! Studies show that kids who watch less than one hour of TV a day are less likely to be overweight or obese. Kids who watch four hours a day have a much greater chance of being obese.

4Play more sports. Too many kids don't get enough exercise, especially with schools cutting back or even eliminating physical education (PE) classes. About 25 percent of America's schoolchildren don't get any PE. So joining a team is one of the few ways kids get to run around a bit.

If you're already playing on a team, terrific. But you can still get more exercise if you practice more on your own or hustle more at your team's practices.

So get outside and shoot some hoops, play catch or practice trapping a soccer ball. Don't worry if you're not a star or the best player on the team. The important thing is to keep moving.

It's a great way to start the year.

Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's Friday sports column and is the author of sports novels for kids.