Since more than one-third of children and adolescents in the U.S. are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it's always inspiring when a young person take steps to get healthier. That's exactly what Irving Candelaria Jr., a 12-year-old from Northlake, Illinois, did. Since enrolling in karate classes at WhirlWin Martial Arts in early 2014, the preteen has lost close to 50 pounds.
Candelaria Jr.'s father, Irving Candelaria Sr., encouraged his son to try karate because the boy wasn't interested in other sports. The 12-year-old admitted he was a little apprehensive about the idea at first, but felt welcomed from the very start.
"I felt good every time I went there, because I knew I actually did something," Candelaria Jr. told the Chicago Tribune. "I didn't know it was exercise because it felt good."
Once Candelaria Jr. lost five pounds, he felt happy and motivated to start eating healthier and exercising more.
Damien Marino, Candelaria Jr.'s martial arts instructor, is very proud of the preteen for working so hard.
"He is, I would have to say, a poster child for a martial arts success story, and I'm just very honored to have him in my life," Marino told the Chicago Tribune.
In addition to dropping down to 129 pounds, Candelaria Jr. has earned a blue belt and is on his way to becoming a junior black belt. Marino said the middle school student also displays more confidence when he practices and speaks.
WhirlWin's director, Jay Larkin, told the Chicago Tribune that Candelaria Jr.'s transformation has been one of the most dramatic changes he has seen in his students. He said it's significant when students learn discipline and self-control from martial arts and use them in their daily lives.
Candelaria Jr.'s story proves that martial arts is a great exercise for everyone. The sport helps burn calories, increase muscle tone and improve heart health.