Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Kids heed Largo's pied piper of fitness and health

LARGO — Fast food, video games, television and Facebook.

Parents pressed for time, juggling work in a tough economy, and in many cases struggling with sheer exhaustion.

Welcome to family life in 2011.

Brandon McIntosh, a Largo recreation program supervisor and certified personal trainer, has seen both sides — inactive youth uninspired to get in shape and frustrated parents concerned with their child's health. With the official launch of Fit Kids, he's aiming to help those families in need.

McIntosh, 30, is well aware of the statistics: About 17 percent of children and adolescents 2 to 19 in the United States are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. That's 12.5 million children.

"In the last couple years, as I worked with our (after school) program, I saw a lot of kids who were overweight feeling picked on because of their weight, and I wondered, if they feel like this in my rec center, what must it be like for them in school? I felt bad,'' McIntosh said.

Every Monday since March, he has led a one-hour fitness class with up to 20 kids, ages 9 to 15. As music is pumped into the classroom next to the gym, he combines a nutrition lesson, aerobics and training on exercise equipment. He also moves the class outside, holding part of the workout in the fresh air.

McIntosh is quick to point out that Fit Kids is made up of typical youngsters. Yes, some joined to help get their weight in check, yet others enrolled for the camaraderie and simple pleasure of group activities. Still others joined to get in shape for team sports like football.

McIntosh, who received a sports management degree from Methodist University in North Carolina, believes the sooner a child controls his own physical fitness program, the better.

"At 11, kids can be stubborn, but when they are 15, they are even more so. We hope we catch them early,'' he said.

When Karen Aktas, whose son has played flag football at Southwest Recreation Complex for several years with McIntosh, heard he was starting up Fit Kids, she immediately enrolled her son Noah, 11.

Aktas admits keeping her son on a healthy track is something she hasn't been able to master by herself.

"Noah's habits could be a lot better, but I'm a single, working mom with not a lot of free time,'' she said. "I need all the help I can get, and Brandon is up on a pedestal with Noah, so when Brandon talks about healthy eating and exercise, my son does it.''

Noah likes the way Fit Kids keeps fun in the workout. He admits he doesn't like every exercise, however. "I don't like doing those,'' he said as he pointed to a green elastic exercise band used to build up triceps muscles and strengthen the shoulders. "But if I have to, I'll do them.''

Another parent, K.C. Stofer, saw her 9-year-old son, Brian Cerebe, heading down a dangerous path.

"We have diabetes in the family. He was overweight, sneaking food, and I was having trouble getting him to do anything,'' she said.

Since he started working with McIntosh, Brian has lost 10 pounds and has moved from wearing size 36 shorts to 34, Stofer said.

His self-esteem has escalated, and he has developed a habit of thinking about his health. "When we go to the store now, he says things like, 'Mom, we need to buy apples,' '' she said. "Before, he'd never say that.''

Brian didn't expect to enjoy the group. "I hated things like getting on the treadmill, but then I realized Brandon was like a coach. If I tried to get away with things or not do something, he wouldn't let me,'' he said. "We have worked so hard that things like the treadmill are easy now, and I know that it means good stuff is going on in my body.''

Largo has an obligation to keep youth a priority, said Joan Byrne, the city's Recreation, Parks and Arts director. She has asked McIntosh to meet with recreation supervisors at the city's other centers as part of a department-wide push for an even stronger youth fitness program.

"Play used to be a kids' thing, but because of computers and that sort of thing, kids have lost play as a physical activity,'' she said. "You've got to show kids how to make (fitness) a part of their daily routine, and Brandon has been able to do this. He's a kid magnet.''

Does McIntosh have advice for parents who are searching for success on the home front?

"Whatever you do, the kid will do. Lead by example.''


Helping kids get in shape

Fit Kids with Brandon McIntosh (for ages 9-15), 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Mondays, Southwest Recreation Complex, 13120 Vonn Road, Largo. Sessions run monthly, and the next one will be June 6-27.

Goal: This class strives to increase the overall health and fitness level of children in a fun, safe and motivating environment.

Cost: $28 for residents; $35 for nonresidents.

For more information, call (727) 518-3125.

Kids heed Largo's pied piper of fitness and health 05/21/11 [Last modified: Friday, May 20, 2011 6:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. White House communications director Dubke steps down


    WASHINGTON — Mike Dubke, White House communications director, has resigned in what could be the start of a series of changes to President Donald Trump's senior staff.

    President Donald Trump speaks at the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Monday, May 29, 2017, during a Memorial Day ceremony. [Associated Press]
  2. Trump pays somber tribute to fallen troops on Memorial Day


    ARLINGTON, Va. — President Donald Trump expressed the nation's "boundless" gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice paid by Americans defending the United States, dedicating his first Memorial Day address as commander in chief to a top Cabinet secretary and two other families who lost loved ones.

    Brittany Jacobs, left, watches as her 6-year-old son Christian Jacobs meets President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, Monday, May 29, 2017, in Arlington, Va. Jacobs father, Marine Sgt. Christopher Jacobs, was killed in 2011. [Associated Press]
  3. Florida education news: Budgets, discipline, charter schools and more


    BUDGETING: Florida school district officials keep a close eye on their spending plans as they await word on the Legislature's budget. Gov. Rick Scott

  4. Forecast: Return of summertime pattern means afternoon storms on tap for Tampa Bay


    As if Memorial Day wasn't enough of a signal that summer truly is upon us, this week's forecast across the Tampa Bay area will be a stark reminder.

    Tampa Bay's 7-day forecast. [WTSP]
  5. Tiger Woods says medication, not alcohol, led to DUI arrest in Florida

    Public Safety

    Players arriving for a tournament this week at Muirfield Village might notice a framed picture of Tiger Woods with a resplendent smile and bright red shirt. He's posed there with the trophy, an image that embodies the excitement he once brought to golf.

    This image provided by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office on Monday, May 29, 2017, shows Tiger Woods. Police in Florida say Tiger Woods was been arrested for DUI.  [Palm Beach County Sheriff's office via AP]