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Fit for life

The Little Gym encourages exercise for young children

The Little Gym encourages exercise for young children

October 02, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

Taylor Clemm had everything she needed for her workout: black yoga pants, a Dora the Explorer sippy cup and the energy that only a toddler can offer.

The 22-month-old participates weekly as part of Beasts, a 45-minute exercise class for 1- and 2-year-olds offered at The Little Gym in Long Meadow Shopping Center in Hagerstown.

The Little Gym is a health club franchise that specializes in noncompetitive exercise for those 12 and younger. The purpose of the gym, the owners say, is to encourage children to maintain active lifestyles at an early age.

The exercise opportunities appeal to parents who see scary statistics about childhood obesity. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of overweight children between the ages of 6 and 11 has more than doubled in the past 20 years - more than tripling among those 12 to 19.

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Healthy eating habits and living an active lifestyle lowers the risk of becoming obese. The CDC recommends that children and teens participate in at least 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week, if not every day.

Concern over childhood obesity was part of the reason David and Emily Rider, of Falling Waters, W.Va., brought their children - Colby, 4, and Alyssa, 2 - to The Little Gym last Tuesday night.

"I was impressed at the thought," David Rider said. "It was nice that there was a place for them to be active. Kids don't know they're exercising. They're having fun."

The couple said they are considering enrolling their kids in the Beast and Super Beast classes - many of the age-grouped exercise classes are named after animal groups.

Instead of using free weights and exercise machines, members of The Little Gym hang from bars, balance on beams and roll on mats. The little ones, with help from moms and dads, sing songs and dance, all the while learning to develop their balance and motor skills. The older children, the ones in grade school, are learning gymnastics, beginner to advanced levels.

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