When we were kids, we played stickball, hopscotch, and games like “May I Take a Giant Step?”
Today, children are playing on computers, cell phones, and X-boxes. The only “giant steps” they may be taking are the ones from the couch to the kitchen.
While the good news is that this may be making them tech-savvy, the bad news is that it may be making them fat.
Kids just aren’t outdoors, engaged in activities that involve moving and running, and this can be contributing to the growing obesity problem in the United States.
Owners Michael Ellis and Rich Bodian of Fitness Zone Plus, located in One on One Physical Therapy (2133 Ralph Avenue, 718-451-1400) want to do something about it. They have created a program for children, which incorporates exercise and nutritional education, and also involves a staff nutritionist who meets with families to discuss children’s eating habits, sleeping patterns, and the amount of time they spend in front of the television.
Children participate in activities that include calisthenics, obstacle courses, and relay races. Parents will be delighted to learn that Fitness Zone Plus accepts most major insurance plans for this specialized weight loss program. Eligibility is determined by the wellness and nutrition consultant who will be addressing the child’s nutritional issues and who will be determining body fat percentile, says Ellis.
The program takes place in a social setting that is upbeat and fun. It creates energy, builds self-esteem, and develops bonding among peers, says Ellis.
He points out the statistics that he has studied: “Over 20% of children are overweight. Since 1960, obesity has increased 54% in children six to 11 years-old, and 13% in children 12-17.”
Obesity has been linked to diseases such as diabetes, which increases the risk of heart disease and kidney failure. “Type 2 diabetes has been diagnosed in children as young as four years-old,” he says.
Being overweight is also linked to high blood pressure and heart ailments. In addition, “Overweight kids are also more prone to depression and low self-esteem,” he says.
Fitness Zone Plus “encourages families to spend less time being sedentary and more time being active,” Ellis says. “It is a multi-disciplinary approach which fosters team spirit, cardio-vascular activities, and nutritional re-education.”
Because they are having so much fun, it doesn’t seem like exercise. Each child can choose from different sports-themed programs. These include basketball, baseball, and soccer. Team activities may include tugs of war and potato sack races. They are all designed to “provide a stimulating and enthusiastic environment for our kids.”
Making simple lifestyle changes such as walking and taking the stairs, rather than the elevator, is encouraged when such options are possible, he says.
Parents may accompany their children to all sessions. They are encouraged to participate in seminars regarding nutrition and lifestyle changes so that they can help their children reach their goals. He points out that the program is designed “to encourage positive changes in the family unit,” so it’s best when everyone works together.
In some cases, parental involvement may be mandatory, says Ellis.
This can be the situation with a child who may have special medical needs, he says.
Among the topics of discussion are why processed food is unhealthy and why traditional “dieting” so often doesn’t work. Handouts are provided, and lists of healthy food choices are encouraged.
At the end of the 12-week program, there is an awards’ ceremony for all participants. “They are all winners,” says Ellis, whose credentials include a dual Masters in Childhood Development and Special Education. He is also a certified personal trainer and physical therapist assistant. His partner, Bodian, is a physical therapist.
If reading this has motivated you to get in shape, note that in addition to this year-old program for children, there is also a program for adults. Nutrition, cardio-vascular activities, toning, and wellness are stressed.
For additional information on how you and your children can begin the journey towards a healthier lifestyle, contact Fitness Zone Plus today.
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