Northwestern Medicine

Youth Wellness Program Improves Health and Fitness While Building Confidence

Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Health & Fitness January 09, 2013

Lake Forest Health & Fitness Center Youth Wellness Program Creates Tailored Fitness Plans for Boys and Girls Ages Nine to 16

LAKE FOREST, IL – When Lake Forest High School student Patrick Casey started his sophomore year this past August, he couldn’t run around the track once and had trouble keeping up in his high school wall-climbing course. His mother Cindy knew about a new youth wellness program at the Lake Forest Health & Fitness Center and convinced him to join. Three months later, Patrick is running an eight-minute mile, has lost 17 pounds and has made new friends along the way.

“Before Patrick began this program, he was like many other teenage boys who spend a lot of time playing video games and watching television,” said Cindy. “The Wellness Program got him off the couch; it has made him more active, it has made him a healthier eater and, most importantly, it has boosted his confidence.”

“What I love about the program is that I feel like I’m being encouraged, not forced to exercise or pushed to do more than I can,” said Patrick. “The trainers are just really kind and so knowledgeable, and they always have suggestions for us about what new exercises and weights to try and how to keep our energy up during the workout.”

Lake Forest Health & Fitness Center piloted the Boys Youth Wellness Program in Spring 2012 with four boys. The pilot proved so successful that the program was expanded to include a greater age range and both boys and girls. The program is designed for kids ages nine through 16, with boys and girls split into separate programs.

The Youth Wellness groups meet three times a week for eight weeks and are led by a certified and degreed personal trainer. The program for nine to 12-year-olds emphasizes exercise through play and educates the children about healthy eating habits that they can carry with them as they begin their teenage years. The program for 13- to 16-year-olds includes general and aerobic fitness activities, as well as sport-specific exercises to increase speed and agility. Patrick is in the program for boys ages 13 to 16, which focuses on cardio and strength training, increasing flexibility and nutrition counseling.

The program starts with an individual health and fitness assessment for each child. The trainer talks to the child about current eating habits and activities and records basic information like height, weight, blood pressure and heart rate. Together, the trainer and child develop an individual fitness plan with weight and fitness goals.

“We are thrilled with the health and fitness strides made by the kids in this program,” said Roberta Duguid, General Manager, Lake Forest Health and Fitness Center. “This age is such an important time for kids to establish nutrition and fitness habits. Our goal is to make it fun for the kids to exercise and to create long-lasting healthy lifestyle habits.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years, and in 2008 more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Establishing healthy habits and maintaining a healthy weight is critical in childhood and adolescence because the problems associated with being overweight or obese have immediate and long-lasting impacts. For example:

  • Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
  • Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, plus social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
  • Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and several types of cancer.
While for many kids losing weight is a goal of the program, it is not necessarily a goal for all participants and it is never the only goal, say the leaders of the Youth Wellness Program. Many of the children want to improve flexibility or increase athleticism.

“One high school boy wanted to make the basketball team,” said Anthony Simone, certified trainer and leader of the 13 to 16 age group in the Boys Wellness Program. “When he made the basketball team this fall, it was great accomplishment for him and it really inspired the other boys. The groups really become like a team—encouraging each other and celebrating each other’s successes.”

Another benefit for Cindy and Patrick Casey has been sharing the experience of exercise and fitness. Cindy loves that she and Patrick have exercise in common now; they share stories about what they did that day at the gym and how their workout was. She has also enjoyed watching him discover the fun side of exercise. She says Patrick tried school-sponsored sports teams in the past but really never had fun doing it.

“At the Fitness Center, I can see how much fun he is having with the new friends he has made, and the support and encouragement they all give one another,” said Cindy. “It has been a wonderful experience in every way.”

New programs begin March 2013. Learn more about Boys Youth Wellness and Girls Youth Wellness online or by calling 847.535.7060.

About Lake Forest Health & Fitness Center

Lake Forest Health & Fitness Center is one of the premier fitness centers on the North Shore. It is committed to ensuring the good health of our communities. Located on the beautiful Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital campus, it offers more than 130 interactive group fitness classes weekly, holistic total-body fitness programs, individual personal training and a wide variety of health and wellness programming. Additionally, it also offers medical fitness programs designed to help members who are living with cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia and cardiovascular disease to better cope with the side effects of their illness. Learn more.

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