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Exercise is Exhilerating for Kids at Parks Plus

Kids programs at Wheaton Park District fitness center teach nutrition and promote fitness.

Parks Plus intern Kim Trippi knows kids love to move. As a senior at Illinois State studying Exercise Science, Trippi chose Wheaton’s  for her final internship because she’d have the chance to work with kids.

With a specific interest in children's fitness and the prevention and treatment of obesity, Trippi developed a program for young visitors to the Kids Kingdom Child Care service, where children will participate in “fit & fun” activities. Running, chasing, active-style games will be part of the daily routine. 

“Kids are more active and have more fun when they play together," Trippi said.

The average American’s lifestyle has changed greatly in the last thirty years, according to local and federal data. Activity levels have dropped and calorie intake has increased. Kids spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using electronic entertainment media. They eat more snacks, more sugar and larger portions than ever before, according to a Parks Plus release.

In DuPage County, more than one third of children between the ages two and 18 years-old are overweight. Half of those kids qualify as obese. Adult obesity rates are even worse. 

The Wheaton Park District is determined to help. 

“Children should be getting an hour of aerobic play every day,” said Sheri Rovansek, manager of . “Parents love the idea of active child care. It’s motivating them to come work out.” 

With a curriculum of play-based games kids improve aerobic capacity and strength while having fun. “We have crazy relay races and Super-Hero circuit training because they’re more likely to keep going when they’re having a good time.” 

Making fitness fun is one part of the solution. Nutrition and education are also critical. Trained fitness professionals, like Trippi, have also designed classes for the Park District modeled after popular fitness programs. Camp Fit & Fun and Boot Camp for Kids help educate both children and parents on the basics of a healthy lifestyle. 

The park district will partner with FORWARD (Fighting Obesity, Reaching Healthy Weight Among Residents of DuPage), a county-wide coalition of nonprofit organizations and individuals that addresses the complex problem of obesity in DuPage County. In 2008, a leadership initiative called was founded to help improve the health and well being of the children and families in this area. In addition to tracking county wide data, FORWARD provides educational materials to a variety of organizations to help create individualized strategies. 

“We’re excited to partner with FORWARD,” said Geri Johnson of the Wheaton Park District. “Shifting people’s mindset toward a healthy lifestyle is important.” 
Another organization working with FORWARD is the (PAK). Headquartered in Wheaton, PAK’s mission is to help families become healthier and more confident. 

Aimed at kids and their parents, the PAK Plan addresses the physical, emotional and nutritional aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Wheaton’s Rice Community Center hosts the 8-week sessions, which happen three times a year. So far, more than 75 families have completed the program. 

“PAK is great because it offers a combination of knowledge, fitness and games for the whole family,” Trippi said. “If parents don’t model good health, kids don’t get it.” 

Kim Trippi will be interning with Wheaton Park District for the next few months, but she hopes her impact lasts beyond this summer. 

“We worked really hard to make our programs fun. We want kids to play everything again at home. Play with siblings. Play with friends,” says Trippi. “It’s not ‘working out’ for the kids. It’s just fun.”

Wheaton Park District’s Camp Fit & Fun, Boot Camp or Kidz Kingdom, try www.parksplusfitness.com or email gjohnson@wheatonparks.org
The FORWARD initiative www.dupagehealth.org/forward 
The Proactive Kids Foundation and the PAK Plan at www.proactivekids.org

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