With so many kids’ faces buried in their electronics these days, getting them off the couch to play outside or bike around the neighborhood may seems like a thing of the past.
Some area fitness clubs, personal trainers and even dance studios are working to get young people moving by offering classes that mimic the ones their parents attend but cater specifically to keeping their interest. Whether the kids are couch potatoes or just need extra conditioning for a sport, instructors say the key to sneaking in some toning and cardio is making exercise fun through games and challenges.
‘Mom, I have mini abs’
When Sandy Frounfelker’s 9-year-old daughter, Kailey, came to her after a few exercise classes, she knew that she was the key to getting in shape.
“She says to me, ‘Mom, I already have mini abs and I’m sore.’ It made me excited because I could tell it’s working and she’s already aware of how important it is to put fitness into her life,” Frounfelker says.
Kailey and her younger sister, Sara, 5, are part of Heather Rockhill’s Youth Fitness Program, a class catered to keeping kids healthy at Rock Strong Fitness in Bel Air.
“I wanted something for kids to do to get out of the house and stay in shape,” says Rockhill, who offers several different programs for children of all levels of athleticism. “The kids get on Xbox and they don’t get any physical activity, and these programs target those kids that are more sedentary.”
The typical youth class starts with a warm-up, then moves on to exercises like body weight movements, push-ups, sit-ups, running and burpees but adds an element of fun. In one activity, they “take letters of the alphabet and each exercise would be represented by the letter of their name,” Rockhill says.
Her gym, which opened in June, also offers one-on-one training sessions and boot camp programs in addition to classes where children can work out with their parents, giving each other a push toward staying fit.
“They actually look at it as a nice family activity,” Rockhill says. “It’s a great motivator for all.”
Rockhill says that she found parents were asking for a program like this not only for kids who eschew competitive sports, dance or cheerleading, but also for kids needing extra strength and cardio training to complement their other sporting activities.
Frounfelker’s daughters, for instance, are enrolled in gymnastics and dance, but she wanted to put them into a program that would help them to include exercise in their daily lives as they get older.
“I don’t want them to break away from being fit,” she says. “It improves their coordination and overall strength and helps with the various sports that they’re involved in and gives them fun and appropriate things to do that doesn’t feel like work.”
When it comes to kids getting exercise, it isn’t all about cardio and strength. Classes that improve concentration and focus are just as important, according to the people behind County Ballet in Bel Air.
That’s why the dance studio launched a new yoga program this winter. It fits into the studio’s focus on discipline and exercise for all ages through its main activity — dance.
“We decided that it really was something missing,” says owner Pamela Lauer. “We want them to focus on their inner peace and concentrate on the space around them.”
The yoga class runs for 45 minute and is for children ages 6 to 10. The program, which focuses on stretching and proper breathing, is for all skill levels, even those who have never taken a yoga class before.
Getting kids to ‘Move It’
At The Arena Club in Bel Air, trainers realize times are changing.
“Kids aren’t going outside like they used to because there’s so many electronic distractions these days,” says Alicia Palmere, group fitness director at The Arena Club.
To combat this problem, Palmere and the club offer programs for children and teens of all ages to get them working out without noticing it.
The club’s 45-minute Move It class, which is free with membership for children ages 8 to 12, focuses on sneaking in large motor skills and movements like planks, push-ups and hops on one leg during fun activities.
One popular game played during the class is a routine similar to “musical chairs,” where the children have to run and climb to their play mats when the time comes.
The Arena Club also offers a program to teach older kids how to safely and properly use the gym equipment so they can start working out consistently on their own. Through Teen License to Train, geared toward ages 10 to 12, a personal trainer reviews cardio equipment, circuit strength training equipment and the abs and core area of the fitness floor.
“We give them a license after they complete the program, and they like it because they get to use the big-kid equipment,” says Angela Saccenti, marketing manager at The Arena Club.
The aim of these programs for the club is to make sure that kids aren’t sitting still while their parents are working out.