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Foothill kids and teens stay in shape

Submitted photoRising Starz Gymnastic Academy All Star Nationals 2002 Cheerleading Squad placed in the top 10 at the National Cheerleading competition. These girls have been training for years to get where there at and are well on there way to a lifestyle of physical fitness.
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What they eat and how they move their bodies are THE keys to fitness for kids and teens alike.

Making exercise fun isn’t a problem for younger folks usually. They’re programmed to move. “Kids and young adults,” says Marianne Reagan of Moving Ground, “have an innate need to move.

Yet our culture tells them to be still, as in sit quietly in school.”



After school, however, and it’s time for the body to throw off those constraints, that is if the urge to sit in front of a computer or TV doesn’t override the body’s wisdom.

Sports is the usual exercise that comes to mind (samba soccer)




Gymnastics is a fun way to condition the whole body. At the Rising Starz Gymnastic Academy teens can get involved in their “cheer program.” Already having made it to the cheer leading nationals in 2002, the 25 teens are going for their second year.

A great option is dance. Moving Ground, a contemporary dance and movement studio, is new to the area, just having opened this last September at St. Joseph’s Cultural Center. Preschool kids to teens enjoy everything from yoga routines to creative dance and modern dance techniques.

Owners Monica Farbiarz, 43, and Marianne Reagan, 45, have 35 years of dance, both teaching and performing, between them, and are passionate about sharing the creativity and joy that comes from exploring movement. A by-product of that, says Reagan, comes all sorts of health and fitness benefits, such as strength, better coordination and balance, an increased range of motion, increased spatial awareness, and better ability to focus the mind.

In fact, it’s the mind that gets as much juice from this exploration as does the body. In teen girls, the two go together in something called body image. Anyone who has a teenage girl who laments despairingly about the length of her legs, the size of her derriere, and always her weight knows how crippling this preoccupation can be.

Moving Ground takes this issue head on by sitting in circle and talking. “No one is ever happy with the body she has, it seems,” says Reagan. “We teach acceptance by getting comfortable moving in the body they already have and not working on changing its shape. This is not about ‘If you only work hard enough, you too can have a perfect body.'”

Pushing the boundaries and taking risks to develop a strong sense of self is another aspect of modern dance that teens, especially those who’ve had jazz or ballet backgrounds, learn at the studio.

One of the two trends in our society that alarm Reagan is MTV hip hop. “This is not dance,” she says, “nor total movement. Rather it is stylized segmented movement of the hips or the chest that I feel is both limiting and inappropriate for young kids because of its sexual overtones.”

The other is childhood obesity, which all who interact with children are seeing. It’s particularly distressing to doctors because such problems as high blood pressure in one’s 30s can start in a person’s teens when they start drinking soda pop and eating potato chips, junk food, in other words.

Dr. Stephen Banister, 57, a father of three now aged 18-25, says it is the parents’ training and example that makes a big difference. “Get them to eat more fruits and veggies. Fruit on cereal works or that great invention smoothies. It takes my son 3 minutes to throw protein powder, frozen berries, and soy milk into a blender, hit the button, and walk.” A real meal in an eye blink.

It’s a little scary to see the statistics on nutrition and kids. Laura Seeman, register dietician at the local hospital, provides the following numbers:

– less than 15% of school children eat the recommended servings of fruit with even more (20%) failing on their vegetable intake

– 16% of kids in school meet the guidelines for saturated fat

– Less than a third consume the recommended milk group servings, with only 19% of girls age 9-19 getting enough calcium. This can spell real trouble for bones as they age.

Just two changes in a kid’s diet can make a huge difference: substituting whole grain bread for white and cutting out sodas.

Banister calls to parents to set another example. “Create more activity-skiing, hiking, swimming, biking-and invite your kids to come along” he says, having just returned from a skiing trip with his kids. The secret to this form of parent/kid participation, he reveals, is to “allow them to invite a friend along.” Then watch the “I don’t want to go’s” turn into “Sounds great.”

Bottom line is keep your kids moving and fueled with the right stuff nutritionally. Then stand aside and watch them blossom


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