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YMCA combats childhood obesity

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Posted June 1, 2005 at 3:57 pm

Thomasville- YMCAs may have found a way to combat America's growing epidemic of childhood obesity. Their offensive is dubbed "Kids Zone." It's a room that combines childrens' favorite pastime of video games with something they don't get much of nowadays: exercise.

When twins Samuel and Sarah Wells aren't in the "Kids Zone" room at one of Thomasville's YMCAs, they're: "Watching TV," says Sarah. "Watching TV, playing video games," adds Samuel.

But now, a revolutionary idea. "Kids Zone" couples that love of leisure with fitness. Take its exercise bikes for example. "You're watching TV and at the same time you're pedaling," says Samuel. The way kids pedal and steer the bikes determines how the game is controlled.

Wellness Director Meggin Van Hook says the "Y" designed "Kids Zone" to combat childhood obesity, a growing problem based on kids' inactive lifestyles nowadays. "One third of American kids are obese today. Children are going home in the afternoon, playing video games, vegging out basically," says Van Hook.

From vegging out to working out, a move children at "Kids Zone" don't even realize they've made. "It's a huge benefit to them. They get cardiovascular work, they get the hand eye coordination, and they're having fun with fitness," says Van Hook.

Sure, machines like the "Dance Dance Revolution" dancing simulator greatly benefit the kids. But there are also perks for their parents as well. "If they're just relaxing and being lazy all day then they're going to be grumpier, and there are going to be more battles. But this way they do sleep better, they're even eating better," says Samuel and Sarah's mother, Jenny Wells.

A mental health boost for mom, "I feel grateful about it. I really do," says Wells; a spiritual health boost for the YMCA's staff, "We've had a dance dance revolution dance off once or twice on Fridays," says Van Hook; and a physical health boost for the kids. Now they just want to: "Get exercising and have fun," says Samuel. "Me too," says Sarah. It's a win-win situation for everyone.

The "Y" first noticed the exercise bikes "Kids Zone" has at a fitness convention. It got the idea for the "Dance Dance Revolution" machine by watching similar games at arcades.

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