Thursday, June 21, 2018
Health

Largo tackles fitness, obesity problems through children's programs

LARGO — Some kids might have been spending the morning eating Pop-Tarts and playing their PlayStation 3, but not Noah Aktas.

By 8:30 a.m. Friday morning, Noah, along with 12 other summer campers, was running drills on the athletic field at Southwest Recreation Complex.

He walked sideways through the speed ladder.

He hopped over hurdles.

He did everything but hold still.

Keeping kids active was one of the goals of Largo's just-ended Fit Kids Camp, a two-week offshoot of an after-school Fit Kids program started about 15 months ago.

Under the direction of Brandon McIntosh, a Largo recreation program leader, Fit Kids is designed to increase the overall health and fitness level of children in a fun, positive and motivating environment.

The summer campers, ages 6 through 15, came in all shapes and sizes. They received lessons in nutrition as well as daily workouts including agility drills, cross training, full-body workouts using free weights and swimming.

Noah, 12, participated in McIntosh's first after-school program. In March 2011, Noah weighed 138 pounds. Now he weighs 119 pounds.

"I'm here in the camp because I want to maintain my fitness level,'' Noah said.

"I remember when I first started working out with Brandon. It was hard to do any sports, hard to do anything. I was really overweight,'' Noah said. "But then after a few months, people started telling me how I looked different. It's given me confidence and I like to play basketball and football.''

For McIntosh, 31, seeing the success of kids like Noah has been an inspiration. "Noah is now a role model,'' he said.

McIntosh, who received a sports management degree from Methodist University in North Carolina, is preparing to launch Fit Kids programs at Largo's other recreation centers.

He's also spreading the word about kid fitness. In August he will help Joan Byrne, director of the Recreation, Parks and Arts department, present "Fit Kids: Fighting Childhood Obesity with Fun,'' at the Florida Recreation and Parks Association's annual conference.

And in a few months, he and Dr. Chrisoula Kiriazis, a Clearwater physician whose children have attended Southwest Recreation Complex programs, will release a book, Fit Kids for Life: A Parent's Guide to Healthy Children.

McIntosh is focusing on making kids more fit because "a few years ago, I'd see overweight kids come into the rec center and they were miserable because of the shape they were in. It hurt my heart,'' he said.

McIntosh believes the key to his success is the fun factor. That means turning running drills into relay races.

"Kids love relay races. We make up silly nicknames for each team,'' McIntosh said.

It means taking a scientific topic like calories and creating a trivia contest to help kids learn how many calories are in certain foods.

"And we also keep a running dialogue about fitness going for the four-hour camp, but we are never too serious. Everybody gets to tell jokes,'' McIntosh said.

However, there's one thing McIntosh never jokes about.

"Sugar. To me, sugar is toxic. That's what I believe,'' he said. "And it's in everything, even canned vegetables."

Byrne broached the sugar issue in her former job as director at Southwest Rec. "We had candy in the vending machine'' at the center, she recalled. "I thought, how can we look at ourselves in the mirror and see the junk we're giving kids?''

So she pulled the candy from the machines. "That was about 10 years ago," Byrne said, "and with each year, we've gotten more committed to promoting healthier lifestyles because we see what's happening with the lives of our children.''

Byrne says the Fit Kids program is part of her department's goal to integrate three contemporary ideas concerning childhood fitness into the recreational programming.

The three ideas are "getting children outside and back into nature; getting kids unplugged from electronic devices and involved in unstructured, old-fashioned play; and tackling the rising rate of obesity,'' she said.

McIntosh remains aware of how children are sensitive when it comes to body image.

"We talk about bulimia head-on. We talk about how wrong it is that some kids starve themselves to see fast results. Nothing happens overnight, and everything must be in moderation,'' he said. "We also never say 'fat' or 'I can't' in my program."

McIntosh also encourages participants to remember Fit Kids is a team effort.

"There is no letter 'I' in team," he said. "We are here to motivate each other.''

Piper Castillo can be reached at (727) 445-4163 or [email protected]

Comments
‘BE AWARE’: Pasco mom posts to Facebook after son’s caterpillar sting leads to ER trip

‘BE AWARE’: Pasco mom posts to Facebook after son’s caterpillar sting leads to ER trip

ZEPHYRHILLS — The Pergolas’ Saturday morning volunteer work started like most, at a farm cleaning the property and trimming trees. Andrea Pergola, 38, stood on the driveway of the property when she heard her 15-year-old son Logan scream. At first, sh...
Published: 06/20/18
Moffitt receives $1 million donation from Richard Gonzmart

Moffitt receives $1 million donation from Richard Gonzmart

TAMPA — Runners gathered for the Gonzmart’s Father’s Day Walk and Jog where they raise money to help aid in Moffitt Cancer Center’s fight against prostate cancer. This year the event raised $110,000, but Moffitt had another surprise in store.Andrea G...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

GENEVA — Obsessive video gamers know how to anticipate dangers in virtual worlds. The World Health Organization says they now should be on guard for a danger in the real world: spending too much time playing. In its latest revision to a disease class...
Published: 06/19/18
Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

The extensive government trial was intended to settle an age-old question about alcohol and diet: Does a daily cocktail or beer really protect against heart attacks and stroke?To find out, the National Institutes of Health gave scientists $100 millio...
Published: 06/16/18
More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults are taking prescription drugs, including hormones for contraception, blood pressure medications and medicines for heartburn, that carry a potential risk of depression, according to a study published in the Journal...
Published: 06/12/18
It’s time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

It’s time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

Courtney Bilyeu was running toward the murky water alongside a few military officers when it happened.She was an accountant for the U.S. Navy at the time. And on her way to take a swim with some coworkers in a California beach, she saw blood. The wat...
Published: 06/12/18
It’s important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

It’s important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

The next time you head to the drugstore to buy sunscreen, don’t forget to pick up some sunglasses, too. That’s because both products work to protect your body from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.Wearing sunglasses for protection should not be re...
Published: 06/09/18
In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

ST. PETERSBURG — Kidney disease doesn’t discriminate.The crowd of more than 200 patients who gathered at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort range in age from teenagers to seniors. They are of different ethnicities and come from all over the...
Published: 06/08/18
Mayo Clinic Q&A: melanomas of the eye; how long should you take a beta blocker?

Mayo Clinic Q&A: melanomas of the eye; how long should you take a beta blocker?

YES, MELANOMAS CAN BEGIN IN THE EYEIs it true that melanoma can develop in the eyes? If so, how common is it? How is it treated?Melanomas can begin in the eye, a condition called intraocular melanoma. Treatment for intraocular melanomas used to prima...
Published: 06/08/18
For writer, using a heart rate monitor takes HIIT from frightening to fun

For writer, using a heart rate monitor takes HIIT from frightening to fun

High-intensity interval training is one of the biggest trends in fitness, but it has always seemed a bit scary to me. To a mere mortal with achy knees and an aging body, even the acronym — HIIT — sounded intimidating.But recently, I overcame my fears...
Published: 06/08/18