Fun figures in fitness plan at Palatine YMCA (Buehler)

Make it fun — and make it active.

That was the theme driving “Healthy Kids Day” Saturday at the Buehler YMCA in Palatine. The national event is designed to help families teach children to adopt healthy lifestyles.

“In light of all the recent studies pointing to obesity in our children, we’re always looking at how we can teach kids to be active,” said John Esposito, executive director. “The main thing is we have to make it fun, and not feel like a workout.”

The event took over the facility’s Square D Sports Center, with dance classes, free throw tournaments, Tae Kwon Do demonstrations, a “diaper dash” for toddlers, and a half- mile and mile fun runs going on above the crowd on the track.

“There’s lots of good activities for kids,” said Matt Roberts of Palatine, with his two young children in tow.

In adjacent rooms, youngsters sampled yoga, rhythm and music, strength training on youth cycling machines, and even the climbing wall and high ropes course in the Y’s new Adventure Center.

“I came for the fun run, I just love to run,” said Mallory Abel, 11, of Palatine, the first girl to finish in her age group.

The biggest draw, Esposito said, was the fitness arcade set up in the gym, featuring a “Dance, Dance Revolution” platform, and a game bike hooked up to a video game that riders control using their steering and pedals.

“I like the moves and I like how you dance to it,” said James Vestuto, 11, of Kildeer.

While the music and the dance moves hooked children and teenagers in, they actually got a cardiovascular workout and one that improved their hand-eye coordination and balance, fitness experts said.

“These are kinds of interactive games that provide exercise and fitness that are really popular with kids,” said Ed Kasanders, of Motion Fitness, a local marketing and distribution company for Fitness ArcadeJ pointing to the Dance, Dance Revolution and the ArcadeRider systems.

Buehler officials said the Palatine YMCA is the largest in the Northwest suburbs, with 18,000 members and up to 50,000 user visits per month.

“Two-thirds of all of our members are families, and we’re constantly trying to find ways for them to exercise together and incorporate that into their lifestyle,” said Esposito, who added the Adventure Center has drawn many more members.

“We don’t want them coming to the Y to work out, but to come to the Y to have fun,” Esposito added. “A byproduct of that is that they will be mentoring with good positive adult role models, and building self esteem while learning to make wise decisions.”

By Eileen O. Daday

Daily Herald Correspondent

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