Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fitness Is Family Affair

“About a year ago, Marc and Tammie Smith came to a rather uncomfortable assessment: They were unhealthy. The Smiths decided to change that. The Stafford County family joined a gym and got their three girls, Chelsea, 10, Darby, 12, and London, 13, playing soccer. This month, they started their own ‘family fitness boot camp,’ challenging one another to try new activities at their gym. These activities have included a family cardio dance class, family cycling and Wallyball, a version of volleyball. ‘It's tiring, but a lot of fun,’ London said. ‘I'm not really thinking I'm exercising.’ The Smiths are not alone. Across the country, families are working out in unison to get healthy and spend time together. Since 1987, the number of children 6 to 17 who are members of health clubs has gone from 1.3 million to 3.9 million, according to a study by the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. Twenty-four percent of clubs now have children's exercise programs, according to the 2007 IHRSA survey. Family exercise programs are becoming more common, according to IHRSA spokeswoman Kara Thompson, but the association hasn't yet tracked the number of clubs adding them. In larger cities, some gyms are specializing only in family fitness. For instance, Volt Fitness in Hackensack, N.J., caters to families with kid-size fitness equipment and offers pay-per-session workouts for families, according to an Associated Press article. In Bethesda, Md., Funfit offers parent and toddler exercise classes and kid-safe circuit training equipment that parents can use too, said Celia Kibler, company president. The family fitness club opened 21 years ago and now offers classes across the metro Washington area, Kibler said, as well as Louisiana, Colorado and New York. ‘We think it is important for parents to exercise with their kids,’ Kibler said. ‘When parents do things with their children, it means so much more.’


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