Tackling obesity at an early age

April 27, 2008 9:00:00 PM PDT
Conventional wisdom used to be that kids shouldn't seriously exercise until well into their teenage years. They should let their bones develop first, according to experts. But with childhood obesity out of control, the conventional wisdom is changing. So how do you motivate kids to exercise?

Eyewitness News reporter Sandra Bookman has more.

You could call one pair of kids the next generation of "gym rats." Eleven-year-old Kayla and 10-year-old Peyton get quite a workout with their personal trainer, Kyle.

"Kyle works us hard, but it's a lot of fun," Kayla said.

It's part of New York Sports Clubs' Youth Sports Performance Program, an effort to broaden adult fitness offerings to include the entire family.

"We wanted to make it easier for them to choose a healthy lifestyle, because they could bring their children with them and not just stick them in a daycare or nursery or in front of the TV," said Cheryl Jones, of Town Sports International.

Besides the immediate physical benefit and the fun, the workouts also help kids develop life long healthy habits.

"At her age, it's actually helping her realize how important exercise is," Kayla's mom, Mary Corbett said.

In fact, Corbett says Kayla's workout is pushing her to make exercise a daily part of her own routine. That's exactly why Peyton's father, himself a former All-American, signed up his son.

"The sooner he can develop this as one of his personal habits, the better likelihood that's going to stick with him throughout his life," Peyton's dad, Richard Wejmert said.

Both Kayla and Peyton are student athletes who say their trainer's focus on proper strength and conditioning has helped improve their performance.

"I think I'm a bit faster," Peyton said. "And when I run, my legs don't give out."

With childhood obesity becoming a growing problem in the U.S., introducing youngsters to the pleasures of physical activity as early as possible makes good health and, perhaps, business sense, as it could create life-long fitness club members.

For more information on the program, click here.