September 16, 2008

Kid Gyms Send Children Out to Play on Treadmills

By Megan K. Scott

NEW YORK - Like many parents, Diana Ennen had trouble getting her daughter Amber to exercise.

So two years ago, Ennen decided that Amber was coming to the health club. Now age 10, Amber is using the stair stepper, lifting hand weights and doing sit-ups on a stability ball.

"She's lost some weight," said Ennen, of Margate, Fla. "Her clothes fit better. You can tell she's firmer."

It may sound like a grownup routine, but many parents are enrolling their children in fitness centers or buying child-size equipment for a workout more grueling than ballet or Little League but cheaper than hiring a personal trainer.

Last year, 1.3 million children ages 6 to 11 were members of a health club, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. And as of April, a quarter of IHRSA member clubs surveyed had children's programs.

At Action Kids Fitness Center, with two locations in California, children can take a 40- to 45-minute circuit training workout with resistance machines and cardio stations, including stationary bikes that connect to PlayStation 2. The center also has hip-hop dance, yoga, karate and monthly nutrition classes.

"We really pride ourselves on the energy and excitement we put into making fitness fun," said Steve Ewing, the center's co- founder. "We don't want them to be thinking they are overweight and obese. We want them to acknowledge that moving is fun."

The circuit workout at Funfit Family Fitness Center in Rockville, Md., has a tot-size exercise bike, an air stepper and hydraulic strength training equipment. Kids and parents can also use personal trainers together or take classes including yoga for tots.

Today's parents are busy working and less apt to let their children go outside and play, said Funfit founder Celia Kibler.

"Parents need a place where they know their kids can stay active, stay healthy and be in a safe place that's supervised by professional people," she said.

Originally published by The Associated Press.

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