New Center For Children Opens on Wallace Street
Story and Photo by Art Petrosemolo
RED BANK – Children’s health and fitness has been in the news recently with reports that preschool child obesity is down in the United States in the past decade.
That, combined with high visibility programs, including Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign and the National Football League’s Play 60 program, are helping keep the focus on children’s health.
In Monmouth County, parents have many options for keeping their children active and healthy including organized sports, fitness programs at the The Community YMCA and other dedicated centers like My Gym. But local statistics show that the county’s youth – with lifestyles that include too much fast food, non-regular meal hours and snacks with high quantities of sugar – are not always winning the fitness/obesity challenge.
According to child fitness professional Mike DeSevo, “Young children today find it easier to stay indoors and play video games than to be outside in organized fitness activities or just play. And, although parents make the gym and health club a part of their weekly routine, interest in fitness has not always filtered down to their children.”
The Red Bank native saw the statistics and decided to provide a local option for child wellness. He is taking child health and fitness a step further in his new KidFit Academy, set to open on Wallace Street this spring.
DeSevo has empathy for children with weight issues brought on by poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle.
“I know how they feel,” he says with an understanding look. “I grew up as an overweight child despite actively participating in youth sports. I had supportive parents but health and fitness for children was unchartered territory 20-plus years ago.
“I was able to take control of my life and adopted an active, healthy lifestyle that allowed me to lose 100 pounds. It is a lifestyle I have adhered to ever since.”
DeSevo, 33, has been working in the fitness industry for the past 15 years. He is certified as a health coach and youth physical fitness professional. “I thought I would take this passion for youth health and fitness and offer it in group sessions at a Red Bank site open to all and that’s what KidFit Academy will do,” he says.
According to DeSevo, “KidFit is not a training center for Little Leaguers, youth soccer or football.” The KidFit mission, according to its owner and head trainer, is to foster healthy lifestyles that can be maintained.
“I am trying to separate fitness from sports,” DeSevo says, “by incorporating health education as part of the program.”
What DeSevo means is that kids will learn about growing and eating healthy foods, how being active contributes to overall health and how key body organs – heart and lungs – play a major role in fitness.
“KidFit Academy will give children a health facility built around their needs and not just a play space in their parents’ health club,” says DeSevo.
DeSevo says that, for years, professionals had advised against fitness training for still-developing young bodies. “That philosophy has changed as children can include moderate fitness training in a planned program to help in overall wellness.”
With a coordinated approach of hands-on activities, games, physical fitness exercises – one-on-one and group programs – KidFit will help children and parents realize that controlling weight and staying fit needs a multidimensional approach.
“Today with the emphasis on competitive athletic programs for even the youngest children, there still is a group of youngsters who are intimidated with the growing demand on competitiveness,” he says. “These children need a place where they are comfortable, where they are accepted and can prepare for a fit future while increasing self-esteem, learning goal setting as part of fostering a strong foundation for health practices.”
The KidFit program lists physical conditioning as one aspect of a program that includes health education, goal setting, teamwork, confidence building, study skills and time management. “Everything has to work together and be in balance,” DeSevo says, “for a healthy lifestyle and I believe it starts with youngsters understanding and taking ownership of these principles.”
KidFit will be open six days a week with classes starting at 9 a.m. for prekindergarten children. DeSevo is looking to have small – five to seven participants – sessions through which he can work individually with participants. Programs will be scheduled to continue throughout the day for different age groups up through eighth grade.
In addition to learning about healthy eating and lifestyles, KidFit members will work on balance, strength, agility and aerobics in sessions that are planned for 60 minutes. The academy will use smaller, kid-size equipment that is not intimidating. Groups will meet weekly but DeSevo says coming to the KidFit facility more than once weekly is also encouraged for those who request it.
KidFit cycles will run eight weeks and DeSevo plans special, more focused programs, and summer sessions during the year.
“I want KidFit to have a positive impact on children’s health,” he emphasizes. “I know, from personal experience, what it is like to have a weight issue and everything that goes along with it. It’s not fun.”