Morning, noon, and night, the Wellness Clinic fills up with IC employees who get fitness and nutrition guidance from students in the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance.
But two afternoons a week, it’s the children of faculty and staff who take over the treadmills, stationary bikes, and weight machines as part of a new program called IC Fit Kids.
Frank Micale, associate professor of exercise and sport sciences and the director of the Wellness Clinic, has been working with colleagues for years to develop this program.
And with children’s health and fitness in the news lately -- First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to eliminate childhood obesity in a generation; New York governor David Paterson’s proposal of a tax on soda and other sugary drinks -- the timing made sense.
“It came to the point where it is getting more important to have this program, as we are finding out that more kids are inactive and obese and that the prevalence of adult onset diabetes is occurring in younger kids,” Micale explains.
Many children, he says, would much prefer to be sitting on a couch playing video games, and one of the main goals of IC Fit Kids is to instill in these children the idea that exercise is not only good for you, it’s fun!
But obesity is by no means a prerequisite for the program. The IC Fit Kids student trainers, all exercise science or clinical exercise science majors, customize the specific exercises in each hour-and-a-half session to the child’s age (anywhere from 8 to 16), physical ability, and goals.
Some may simply want to become more active and learn how to exercise; others may want to work on weight loss; others may be athletes interested in enhancing their performance in a particular sport.
The student trainers also teach children the types of exercises and activities that are important for their long-term well-being. “We teach them how to warm up and stretch, how much cardio to do, the kinds of muscular fitness they should do, and balance,” Micale says.
“I’ve learned you really have to adapt the program to the population you are working with,” says IC Fit Kids trainer Jason Sibley-Liddle ’10. “You can’t give a standard weight-training routine to a nine-year-old; it’s just not going to work. You have to figure out their likes and dislikes, then build a program and constantly adjust as you go.”
For 11-year-old Taylor Merritt, that meant a regimen of shuffle drills, push-ups, crunches, even going outside for a run. “I really connected with Jason because we both like lacrosse,” says Taylor. “He is an awesome trainer.”
Taylor’s mother, Kelly Merritt, the manager of the multimedia resource center in the College library, says her son has a health condition that requires him to watch his weight, and this program helps him do that.
“He is just one of those kids who loves to be active,” Merritt said. “He has made such a connection with Jason and really looks forward to going back next year.”
Taylor’s mastered the proper techniques for the various fitness machines and improved his form on various exercises so he can stay active till next semester.
What else has he learned? “To always keep my head up!” he says. That’s certain to help with his long-term well-being.
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