Fitness trainers from Equinox South Beach helped combat the country’s growing epidemic of childhood obesity by participating in the Health Awareness and Career Week held recently at Miami Beach’s North Beach Elementary School.
Juan Lugo and Ari Weinstein talked with the kids, gave demonstrations, and generally served as good example to encourage the youngsters to embrace a more active way of life.
“Kids love role models. If they see someone cool and hip and young, they can relate to them,” said Lugo. “As adults, we’re already set in our ways when it comes to diet and exercise habits. We can change that to a degree, but, if we start early, with kids, we can really have an influence,” agreed Weinstein.
The week’s worth of activities was designed to both showcase different careers and also to focus on the importance of health and exercise, said Michelle Rivera, who teaches physical education at the school.
“We decided that, instead of just having speakers come into talk about their careers, we would also incorporate people who work in the fields of health, nutrition and wellness,” aid Rivera. In addition, instead of holding the customary bake sale at the end of the week as a fundraiser, the school sponsored a health walk.
Just over 17 percent of all children and teenagers are obese, which is a three-fold increase over the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And, for African-Americans and Hispanics, the numbers are far higher, the government agency says. Obesity is defined as being at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same weight and sex.
At the event, Lugo set up a fitness course. The youngsters who completed it were given Equinox Frisbees. The youngsters also participated in a Health Trivia game. “Some of the kids wanted to work out and work out and not stop, they just wanted to do it over and over again,” said Lugo.
“I sat down and talked to the kids to find out how much they know about their bodies. We talked about what kind of fitness activities they do at home, and we brainstormed about ways that they can get their parents more involved in activities,” said Weinstein, adding that he was impressed by how inquisitive the youngsters were.
“I asked them if they knew what kind of health problems we have, and right off the bat, they started talking about high blood pressure and high cholesterol. They were also very inquisitive. They asked me lots of questions, like ‘Can you exercise too much?’ Clearly, they wanted to know more,” Weinstein added.
And Lugo also talked to the kids about how to incorporate exercise into their lives. “I tried to underscore that fitness doesn’t always have to involve working out with dumbbells. I told them, ‘You can run on the beach.’”
For his part, Lugo loves to reach out to kids, starting with his son, who is almost five. “My son loves vegetables. I’ve instilled this in him since he was two years old and he’s on the right track. He has no idea what Coke tastes like.”
North Beach Elementary School has won awards from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation to target childhood obesity.
Lugo and Weinstein are both fitness experts. Lugo holds certifications from the National Council of Strength & Fitness, is a certified trainer in Kettle Bell Athletics, and also Power Plate, and holds American Red Cross CPR/ ARD certification. Weinstein, who holds a master’s degree in exercise physiology, is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.
For more info: Andreas Heuser, Equinox South Beach, 305-673-1172.
Charlotte Libov is the author of five health books, including “The Women’s Heart Book” which was made into the groundbreaking PBS documentary “Women’s Hearts at Risk.” Her articles on health appear in AARP/Viva, WebMD, Poder and many more. She speaks locally and nationally on heart disease in women. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.