Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

December 20, 2012

Exercise experts tackle obesity by catering to kids

Judy Wakefield
Staff Writer

---- — ‘Tis the season for fabulous sedentary gifts. Kindles, iPads and iPhones are being requested by kids this holiday season. And while they may be sure to bring a smile, a lot of couch time for the youth will also come with these hot new gifts.

That’s so not good, but local workout gurus have a plan to get youth off the couch. Many have special programs designed with kids in mind.

Echoing First Lady Michelle Obama’s rallying cry to get kids moving, Boston Sports Clubs in Andover is among the local workout places trying to get more kids moving by offering what used to be grown-up fitness classes to them. Younger kids take yoga, step and spinning classes while pre-teens can take cardio sculpting classes. Kids ages 11 to 14 learn about muscle development and body changes while they work out.

“We want kids to grow up to make exercise a part of their routine,” said Leyna Dahlinghaus, assistant general manager at Boston Sports Clubs who manages kids fitness programs for ages 1 to 13. “It’s our mission.”

So the club is offering hip exercising classes meant to appeal to kids. There’s no quiet, relaxing background music in the kids yoga class.

Also, “kids like animals so we do a lot of animal poses,” Dahlinghaus said.

As for spinning classes, the music blares the top 40 favorite songs requested by participants. Dahlinghaus said the teacher is a good sport who doesn’t mind being a deejay and simply tunes out the loud music.

“The music is much quieter in the adults spinning class,” she said.

Most fitness experts and centers in town offer special programs geared to youth. Andover Youth Services, the town of Andover, Appalacian Mountain Club and the Andover/North Andover Y have many programs available for kids of all ages, abilities and interests — from skiing, hiking, snowboarding, wrestling and dancing to triathlon training.

Childhood obesity is a big concern for heath professionals these days, Dahlinghaus said, “and it doesn’t seem to be getting better. My goal here is to get kids to start enjoying fitness and realize there are many ways to stay active besides being in organized sports,” she said.

Organized sports aren’t for every kid. Youth are cut from teams, particularly in high school. Dahlinghaus said having a work out time in a child’s daily routine is a way to keep a child active and moving.

“We want to keep kids healthy and keep them moving. We find parents are responsive and it’s great when a whole family works out,” Dahlinghaus said. “With all this tech stuff for kids, like iPads, we’re worried...what’s it going to be like for kids in like 20 years? We want to keep them moving.”