Leader Blues

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Martin Street Youth Center has summer fitness classes for kids

Motivated by the national obesity woes among adults, the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department devised two exercise programs to teach youngsters the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

Last week, Kids Fit and Reality Fit, programs targeting two different age groups, kicked off at the Martin Street Recreation Center in Jacksonville.

Children ages 8 to 12 will be in the Kids Fit classes and teenagers 13 to 15 can participate in the Reality Fit classes. Both pilot exercise programs are scheduled to run for the next six weeks, and Staci McHenry, aerobics coordinator for the parks and recreation department, will oversee them.

“The older class did the aerobics pretty well, but the younger ones, to keep their interest, will do active games like basketball, jump rope and dance,” said Cathy Brand, program manager for the department.

Brand said she hopes these classes will help the children develop a healthy lifestyle which will carry over into adulthood.
“It was a combination of myself, George (Biggs, director of the department) and the Jacksonville Health Coalition thinking about and discussing the possibility of a summer program of exercise for the kids.”

Between 1988 and 1994 and1999 and 2002, National Health and Nutrition Examination surveys show the U.S. has experienced a 45 percent increase in overweight youth ages 6 to 19.

After each class, youngsters and teens participating in the fitness programs are then taught about nutritional facts and instructed about healthy foods to eat instead of snacking on sugary treats. As an added bonus, the classes are free.

Minorities appear to tip the scale in being overweight. According to the American Heart Association website, 27.3 percent of Hispanic-American boys are considered to be overweight, while the percentage of overweight Hispanic-American girls is 19.6 percent.

Approximately 17.5 percent of young males of African-American descent 22.1 percent of young females in that group are considered overweight. However, 11.9 percent of Caucasian boys are considered overweight as compared to 12 percent of Caucasian girls.