Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Kid Gyms Send Children Out To Play On Treadmills

“Like many parents, Diana Ennen had trouble getting her daughter Amber to exercise. So two years ago, Ennen decided that Amber was coming to the health club. Now age 10, Amber is using the stair stepper, lifting hand weights and doing situps on a stability ball. ‘She's lost some weight,’ said Ennen, of Margate, Fla. ‘Her clothes fit better. You can tell she's firmer.’ It may sound like a grown up routine, but many parents are enrolling their children in fitness centers or buying child-sized equipment for a workout more grueling than ballet or Little League but cheaper than hiring a personal trainer. Last year, 1.3 million children ages 6 to 11 were members of a health club, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. And as of April, a quarter of IHRSA member clubs surveyed had children's programs. At Action Kids Fitness Center, with two locations in California, children can take a 40- to 45-minute circuit training workout with resistance machines and cardio stations, including stationary bikes that connect to PlayStation 2. The center also has hip-hop dance, yoga, karate and monthly nutrition classes. ‘We really pride ourselves on the energy and excitement we put into making fitness fun,’ said Steve Ewing, the center's co-founder. ‘We don't want them to be thinking they are overweight and obese. We want them to acknowledge that moving is fun.’ The circuit workout at Funfit Family Fitness Center in Rockville, Md., has a tot-sized exercise bike, an air stepper and hydraulic strength training equipment. Kids and parents can also use personal trainers together or take classes including yoga for tots. Such workouts are a long way from riding bikes and playing tag. But in an era of rising childhood obesity, physical education cutbacks and a more sedentary lifestyle, children's gyms make sense, said Rosemary Lavery, IHRSA spokeswoman. While experts agree that any fitness is better than nothing, they aren't so sure this is the answer. Children should be outside interacting with other children, not playing video games in a musty basement, said Tony Sparber, who runs New Image Weight Loss Camps. ‘In the '50s and '60s, kids were playing and they were playing outside,’ he said. ‘We didn't have all these concerns about overweight, out-of-shape kids.’ Still, Cathie Soneja, 47, of Anaheim, Calif., said her 8-year-old son Nathan is usually the one reminding her that it's time to go to Action Kids, where he does the circuit and takes hip-hop dance. ‘When we first started, I wasn't that fit. Then I started seeing that I was getting stronger,’ he said. ‘It makes me feel like a teenager or adult.’”


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