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Youth Sports

Hernando YMCA holds youth fitness boot camps to fight childhood obesity


Childhood obesity can be considered a major problem for today's youth.

The statistics are overwhelming. According to a medical study online at, only 4 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 11 were considered overweight in a survey taken between 1971 and 1974, but between 2003 and 2004 that number rose to 18.8 percent. These numbers don't even include children who have gone past the category of overweight and into obese.

That's why there are programs such as the YMCA Kids Boot Camp. With the latest trend of boot camps helping adults overcome weight issues, the next logical step would be programs for the youth population.

YMCA membership director Olivia Matles helped organize the first boot camp, which is being held this summer at the facility on Mariner Boulevard, and the participation has risen from eight kids to as many as 20.

"We're always looking at targeting an area of membership that falls between the cracks, striving to look for new programs for the 'tween' population," Matles said. "The obesity numbers in children are staggering, and this is something we can't ignore."

The class meets at the YMCA front entrance at 6:30 on Monday and Wednesday evenings. The goal of instructor Paul D'Amelio and assistant Jeff Gardner is to teach fitness information to the kids while mixing up different exercise programs to keep them motivated. The group has done cardiovascular and strength conditioning that includes calisthenics, various workout drills, short-distance walking and running, weight training and more.

"Truthfully, I haven't been surprised at all with how many kids took to this," D'Amelio said. "We were all kids once, and the important thing is to remember what you liked back then and get the kids interested."

Though only about 20 percent of the kids in the class are overweight, according to Matles, the course is about fending off the onset of weight gain. The growing trend of youth obesity stems from the lack of activity in today's children.

While class size has more than doubled in the past six weeks, there has been a solid nucleus of kids who have stuck it out and have no plans of stopping. D'Amelio, a personal trainer at the YMCA who also teaches a youth fitness class, has seen a handful of kids who looked lost at the start become very energetic and excited with each class.

"There are quite a few (kids) who have been there since day one," D'Amelio said. "They have come a long way in a short time. Some of the kids were timid and quiet in the beginning, and then you see them getting faster and into better shape."

Camps and activities targeting young children at the YMCA are constantly being instituted, with mixed results. Some camps receive solid interest and go on for quite some time; however, others never really get off the ground for lack of participation. The youth boot camp has proven to be one of the most successful endeavors the Y has undertaken for this age bracket, and because of that, there is no planned end in sight.

"Parents love it, and we've heard a bunch of great feedback about it," Matles said. "This is a keeper. Sometimes you try programs and there isn't a lot of interest, but that hasn't been the case with this one."

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Fast facts

Kids Boot Camp

Where: YMCA Hernando Branch, 1300 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill

When: Mondays and Wednesdays, 6:30 to 7:15 p.m.

Instructors: Paul D'Amelio and Jeff Gardner

About the camp: Eighteen kids, ages 8 to 13, are enrolled in the class that helps deter childhood obesity. Inspired by the very similar adult program, boot camp is a physical blitz that motivates all participants to stay in shape and learn a healthy lifestyle.

For more information, call (352) 688-9622.

Hernando YMCA holds youth fitness boot camps to fight childhood obesity 08/13/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 13, 2009 7:25pm]
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