Success Stories in Fighting Childhood Obesity
David’s Story: “I like working out; it’s fun.”
David Rivers loves to explore outdoors. He is a happy, active, confident 11-yearold boy with a large circle of friends. However, a year ago he was a shy, overweight boy who was teased and bullied at school; he was lethargic and did not participate in playground activities. Tammy Rivers, his mother, credits the dramatic change in his lifestyle and attitude to California FitKids in Corona, CA: “Prior to his joining California FitKids, it seemed like we were buying new pants for David every three months. His face was so puffy; he could barely open his eyes. He never ran anywhere; he basically just shuffled along. He now runs everywhere and participates in playground activities and his grades have improved tremendously.”
David’s parents were very concerned about his weight gain last year and even took him to a psychiatrist to determine the root of the problem. “He basically told us that we had the problem because we were concerned about David’s weight…and, that it was not good for his self esteem to acknowledge the fact that he was overweight,” says Tammy, “That’s when we decided to do something proactive and signed him up at California FitKids.”
David works out three to four times a week for 30 to 45 minutes on the hydraulic- resistance equipment designed for kids and he loves the results. “Kids used to call me mean names like ‘bowling ball,’ but they don’t do that anymore. I like working out; its fun and I have made lots of new friends,” says David.
Renee Spurlock, owner of California FitKids, says her club is a labor of love: “Our goal was to open a facility that would offer an opportunity for change for overweight and out-of-shape children in a non-intimidating, fun atmosphere. Children who feel good about themselves have a jump-start on the path to becoming happy, well-adjusted adults. We emphasize fun, not winning or losing, but eliminating the fear of failure. This is why we chose to use hydraulic-resistance machines; there are no weight stacks that cause muscle soreness and no one can see how much weight you can, or can’t, lift. It’s very gratifying to see an overweight child get results quickly and come out of their shell. We realized that fun and variety were the keys to keeping the program fresh for the kids, so we are constantly doing things like: moving the Kid’s PE machines around, changing the hand-andfoot holds on the climbing wall, and using fun props like hoola hoops, hoppy balls and jump ropes. We also understood that parents were going to be concerned about safety, so all of our staff has been certified through NESTA (National Endurance & Sports Training Association) and are wellqualified to work with the kids.”
Anthony’s Story: “Now I am setting world records.”
Another success story is nine-year-old Anthony Cadena. Anthony, also an overweight child, suffers from Cerebral Palsy and he had poor posture as well as problems with large motor skills due to a bad leg. Anthony lost two pants sizes in his first month at California FitKids and his posture has already improved dramatically. His school’s physical education coach has also noticed a tremendous change in his willingness to participate in playground activities.
His mother, Hope Alvarez Cadena, says that there have been more than physical improvements: “Anthony’s whole attitude, self esteem and confidence have greatly improved. He is so proud that he is a member of California FitKids; it’s his gym. The staff works closely with him to encourage and motivate him. He loves the equipment and the fun activities. This has been the best investment we have ever made.”
Anthony is rightfully proud of his progress, he says, “I couldn’t make it across the climbing wall the first time; now I am setting world records.”
Elise’s Story: “She’s ‘Gung-Ho’ on the program.”
Annette Walters, owner of Fitness Solutions for Kids in Akron, Ohio, has seen similar results with her elementary school-age clients: “It is very rewarding to see the changes in our kids, both physical and psychological. We do assessments on the kids initially so that we can monitor their progress over time, but results are evident almost immediately; especially changes in attitude. Our goal is to provide a fun introduction into a fitness lifestyle in a fun, non-intimidating, non-competitive and supervised format. We are pleased that we have accomplished this goal in hundreds of kids so far.”
One such member of Fitness Solutions for Kids is 10-year-old Elise Rybak who weighed 145 pounds and could not do one push-up prior to joining the club. “I lost 10 pounds just coming in the first month. I like the machines and I like watching the coaches being silly,” Elise says.
Elise’s mother, Yvette Rybak, says, “This program may just be an answered prayer for Elise and me. We live in a rural area without activities like biking and roller skating. After my divorce, I had to go back to work. I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare healthy foods, so we ate ‘convenient foods.’ Both of these factors affected Elise’s weight. Now she is excited about being healthy and she’s energized in school. She’s actually doubled the amount of crunches she can do and she’s ‘gung-ho’ on the program.”
Exercise and Proper Nutrition
Exercise, however, is only half the battle says Registered Dietitian Lucho Crisalle of Exercise & Nutrition Works, Inc. (www.exerciseandnutritionworks.com): “Actually, both halves of the weight loss equation are equally important. Being an RD (Registered Dietician) and working in hospitals for many years, I recognized that nutrition alone was not the answer, so I decided to go back into the health club industry to facilitate the proper combination of exercise with nutrition for permanent results. It is just as important to instill in children proper nutrition as it is to introduce them into proper exercise. It is also important to dispel some common myths of what is healthy for kids to eat.
For example, most of today’s juice drinks are full of sugar and candy. Even though the drink says ‘fruit’ on the label, it is still candy.”
David, Anthony and Elise are good examples of the results of permanent lifestyle changes that can be enjoyed when there is a proper balance of exercise and nutrition. Obesity in our children can be overcome, but it is up to the fitness industry to offer the services and programs necessary to combat this growing epidemic.
Rande LaDue is the President of Pro*Fit Enterprises, manufacturers of PACE and Kid’s PE hydraulic circuit training equipment. He can be contacted at 888.604.2244, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.kidspaceexpress.com.