Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Treadmill Designed For Kids? A Debate Over Fitness Takes Shape

“Treadmills and elliptical trainers for children: a benign way for kids to get in shape - or a depressing statement on what our society has become? That's the question swirling around two new products, Fitness Fun's My Treadmill and Glide-a-Stride, both of which are aimed at kids as young as 3, and promise fun ‘just like Mom and Dad!’ TV remote control not included. At Henry Bear's Park in Brookline Village, where the nonmotorized, kid-powered machines are displayed in the window, response has been decidedly mixed. At a time of heightened concern about childhood obesity, the treadmill and step glider, which retail from $99 to $120 each, are among a growing number of toys marketed to get kids moving, says Adrienne Citrin, public relations manager of the Toy Industry Association. In 2007, for example, Fisher-Price introduced a stationary bike for kids ages 3-6 that plugs into the television to keep youngsters interested. If manufacturers can make products that help kids slim down and that parents feel good about buying, Citrin says, ‘Everyone wins.’ Or do they? ‘I wouldn't say one should never consider something like this for a particular child,’ says Dr. David Ludwig, director of the Optimal Weight for Life Clinic at Children's Hospital Boston, ‘but we have to remember that children are not just little adults. Kids' bodies and their minds are not designed to spend 20 minutes on a treadmill.’ ‘It reflects, I think, a misguided mentality,’ he continued, ‘where we're trying to make physical activity for children a commodity rather than a natural integrated part of their lives.’ But Nicole Tiedemann, a publicist for Fitness Fun's parent company, International Playthings, plays up a different angle. ‘If mom and dad are running on a treadmill at home,’ she says, ‘the kids can do it, too.’ And if mom and dad have, er, stopped using their treadmills for exercise and instead turned them into repositories for clothing or books? Well then, the kiddie equipment might end up encouraging the grown-ups, Tiedemann says. "They always say a partner situation gets you more motivated to exercise. This could be a motivational tool not just for kids, but parents."

No comments: