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Fitness plans aim to help yourself and others — at any age

153 children that have been participating in the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund Kid Power program this summer at the Health Unlimited Family Fitness and Aquatic Center in Mount Airy. (Jon Kelvey and Max Simpson / Carroll County Times)

There's a benefit to getting active at any age, and it's not always limited to your own health.

Just ask 10-year-old Logan Ezerski, who has been wearing a new step-tracking wristband while playing in The Yard, the section of the Health Unlimited Family Fitness and Aquatic Center devoted solely to kids ages 7 through 13.

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"Basically what it does — every time we get 25 points … it sends food and other stuff to kids in poor countries so they can have something to eat," he said.

Logan is one of 153 children who have been participating in the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund Kid Power program this summer, according to Danny Beach, assistant manager at the gym. While the children play basketball or dodgeball in The Yard, the Fitbit-like step trackers count their steps, earning points that UNICEF translates into meal packets to be sent to developing countries.

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"We kicked it off when school got out, and this particular session of it is running right through when they go back to school at the end of August," Beach said. "Our goal was to get 100 packets by the end of summer. We're getting close: We're up to 63."

Logan has taken to the program with gusto.

"My record was 5,200 steps," he said, "I have been playing dodgeball, that's one exercise that gets this up."

While the initial idea behind The Yard was to allow kids a place to exercise in a fun way while their parents worked out in the gym proper, Beach said the Kid Power program does seem to be getting some kids excited to come to the gym on their own. On Tuesday, Logan had been driven to the gym by his grandfather specifically for some step clocking in The Yard.

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"One of the hopes is that you have parents that say, 'Hey, we're headed to the gym,' and the kids get excited to go to The Yard. But also if you have kids that say, 'Hey, I want to go to The Yard and get more steps,'" Beach said, "then you're getting the whole family together to work out."

The way that exercising and staying healthy affects family and others is also the motivation behind trainer Rommie Wheeler's Crossfit RSC gym in Finksburg and something he holds to be true for both children and grandparents.

"Your health is about you, but it is so much more about the people around you," Wheeler said. "Your family loves you, and your family wants you to be healthy so they can see you longer and vice versa."

On Wednesday, three senior women participated in a Crossfit WOD, or Workout Of the Day, under Wheeler's supervision, doing pushups, legs lifts and dumbbell raises as part of the gym's Senior Fit class.

"They did a modified version of what our traditional Crossfit class would be," Wheeler said, "Modified for their needs and their intensity level."

Ruth McNeill, 81, of Owings Mills, has been working with Wheeler since 2007 and credits the strength training she has done under his guidance with keeping her mobile.

"Your old age catches up with you, your body starts wearing out, so I needed more specific training to help alleviate some of the discomfort I was having from joint problems," she said. "We started working on strength training to strengthen my back. That's where we are today — I am not in a wheelchair."

Not only is McNeill not in a wheelchair, on Wednesday, Wheeler had her knocking out multiple sets of body rows, pulling herself up on a set of wooden gymnastic rings, and sets of sumo dead lifts — performed with a widened stance — with a loaded barbell.

It was the first time doing sumo dead lifts for Lynn Lopez, 66, also of Owings Mills, despite her having been an athlete in high school and college. She also credits working out with Wheeler three times a week for mitigating some pain in her knees.

"I don't think I would be standing upright and doing any of this stuff if I hadn't been doing this," she said. "I think just for anybody — even people without physical issues — the older you get, the more issues you're going to have. You can preempt them, by starting early, or like I am doing, strengthening my knees and my back where my issues are."

Lopez said it was a little intimidating getting back into a gym at first, though she quickly become comfortable. Wheeler said that finding a fitness community where you feel at ease is one of the keys to getting active, no matter what your stage in life.

"Starting is always the hardest part. Start with a friend, start with a family member, start with a community," he said. "The healthier you are the better you will feel. … It's hard to put a price on feeling good."

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More information

For more information on participating in the UNICEF Kid Power program at the Health Unlimited Family Fitness and Aquatic Center in Mount Airy, call 301-829-9730 or go to www.myhealthunlimited.com. More information on the UNICEF program itself is available online at www.unicefkidpower.org.

More information on Crossfit RSC Senior Fit Crossfit classes is available by calling 443-712-8011 or going online to www.crossfitrsc.com.

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