F.U.N. fitness for you

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Using a “recess mentality,” Strongput emphasizes friendliness, understanding and nurturing.

Remember when dodgeball, “hot legs” (a game where the girls chased the boys), kick the can and hopscotch were the challenges of choice at recess? For today’s kids, play time promises Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme and the Barbie Workout and playgrounds provide programs approved by the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Despite the commercialized “jargon jungle” of the youth fitness market, today’s youth still asks “When is recess?” with just as much enthusiasm as previous generations.

Are the youth of today healthier and happier than yesterday? A polarity of opinion prevails among industry insiders. While many say children are active but not fit, others point out children are fit, but inactive. “Kids today, going all the way back to the Kennedy Administration, have been oriented to fitness through negative reinforcement,” says Curt Hinson, M.Ed., 1st through 3rd grade P.E. instructor and health and physical education adjunct professor at Wilmington College. “The tests and goals, rewards and performance fitness criteria which left past generations confused and discouraged, now threatens the fitness image of today’s youth. A new attitude is surfacing which can be illustrated by the idea of accepting all children where they are and as they are on a fitness continuum.”

At the left side of the continuum is poorer health and self-esteem and at the right is better health and self-esteem. Everyone falls onto the continuum somewhere in between. There’s nothing “wrong” with anyone who lands to the left, according to Hinson. “The orientation is longterm development,” he says. “Kids may enjoy a burger, fries and shake and know they’ve slid a little to the left. But, if they’re moving toward the right, then fitness has become a friendly, non-threatening part of overall lifestyle.”

Open-handed weight lifting provides dramatic physiological and psychological benefits to children, according to Scott Caruthers, inventor of Strongput’s Non-grip Technology. “Lifting weights with the hand open instead of closed means fitness is not tight-fisted anymore,” he says. “A clenched fist indicates threat, isolation and anger, whereas an open hand means friendliness, communication and concern. Tests have also indicated the heart muscle, with a clenched fist, tightens up. But with open-hand weight resistance, the heart stays open.”

Strongput’s cantaloupe-size weights have proven to maximize physical activity results. “The non-grip modality produces better blood flow and allows for waste products to be eliminated from the bloodstream, which pumps clean blood to targeted muscles,” says Marshall Banks, Ph.D. of kinesiology at the Sports Research Center/HuMed Diagnostic Center in Washington, D.C. “The result is faster, more efficient impact to the muscles being worked.”

Caruthers is open-minded about market impact. “One of the first people using Strongput in her aerobics class found her 3-year-old daughter imitating her with a two-and-a-half-pound Strongput weight,” he says. “We determined the first fitness toy invented should bridge the gap between adult and children’s fitness. Now adult and child can work out together, imitate each other and have fun. The perception of togetherness becomes a more important motive for working out than just getting fit.”

New products and programs need to emphasize F.U.N.–friendliness, understanding and nuturing, according to Strongput, Inc. in Baltimore, Maryland. To further promote F.U.N., Strongput, Inc. created Plushput (a soft, puppet-like version of Strongput) and Putpal (a matching slip cover to Plushput which fits snugly over Strongput) resembling various plush animals. Now children can safely imitate adult weight resistance exercise without feeling intimidated.

Fun and play are the essential components of taking the pain out of physical education, according to Strongput. In fact, most experts agree youth fitness should be more than just a leisure activity.

“Listen for the bell,” says Caruthers. “It’s almost time for recess.”

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