YMCA gets kids’ equipment

Published 10:06 pm Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Every child wants be like Mommy or Daddy, but there are some activities that parents have to tell their children are only for grown-ups. At the YMCA, though, working out is no longer one of those activities.

The Suffolk Family YMCA has gone one step further to help people build healthy families by cutting the ribbon on six pieces of new fitness equipment for preschool-aged children.

“We are the first YMCA in the Hampton Roads area — and one of only a few in the entire United States — that has this equipment,” Suffolk YMCA Executive Director Rick Matthews said. “Youth obesity is a continuing epidemic out there. This equipment helps take the solution to just below that age to help prevent it. Now, they can mimic the healthy lifestyle they see from their parents and have fun doing it. We don’t want kids growing up thinking working out is drudgery.”

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The equipment includes a trampoline with a handrail, two treadmills, two fitness bikes and a stair stepper — all kid sized. They are available for preschool-aged children in the YMCA’s childcare area and safe to use.

“It is self-propelled, so it doesn’t move unless the child is actively trying to move it,” said O’Nealia Silvers, child watch coordinator at the YMCA.

All equipment monitors distance covered and calories burned, so children know how much work they’ve done and can have a sense of accomplishment.

“It really opens up a whole new era and outlook for younger children,” Silvers said.

Making fitness equipment available to children at a younger age not only can help prevent childhood obesity, but also conveys that exercise isn’t only a grown-up activity, which could have a substantial impact on their views of fitness later in life, Silvers said.

“It’s really fundamental,” she said. “Building this behavior to keep your kids healthy and fit can help them have a longer, healthier lifestyle when they grow up.”

Additionally, she said that making exercise fun for children at a young age could help keep it from seeming to be a chore in the future.

“Building strong kids is one of our core values,” Silvers said. “This is a way for them to do that and have fun at the same time.”