Trading Crayons for Crunches: Kids Hire Personal Trainers to Stay Fit

Frank Bono is a trainer at the Reebok Sports Club/NY. He trains children as young as 4- and 5-years old and charges between $80 and $90. While not all of his clients are overweight, many of them are. One 6-year-old he works with is 20 pounds overweight.

"Parents see there is a problem and they don't know how to fix it," said Bono."Some of them really want to be here and want to learn, and some of them are forced to come. We try to push them in the right direction so that they start to like exercise."

Rodney Turnman is a personal trainer who runs a fitness boot camp in North Texas. Turnman believes that turning fitness into fun is the key to getting kids shape, especially when their parents are not physically active. Sessions at Turnman's camp cost anywhere between $50 and $75.

"The reason for the trend is because parents aren't good role models," said Turnman. "They are forced to turn to an alternative role model and we're starting to market to kids"

Kim Cox trains with Turnman, and even brings her 4-year-old son, Conner, along for the workout.

"He loves it," said Cox, referring to her son. "He sees me work out and I involve him and I think it's important that he sees my active lifestyle."

Carol Espel, national director of group fitness for the Equinox Fitness Clubs, says that Equinox offers an array of fitness programs, including personal training.

"I think it's a viable option for kids who don't necessarily play sports," said Espel. "Classes range from $65 to $100 and are required to be instructed by the top tier trainers."

Is It Worth It?

Whether personal trainers are really worth the money is still up for debate.

"I do recommend personal trainers to patients if they can afford it because having training with a fitness person is helpful to the child," said Dr. Susan Nunez of the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. "They may not be motivated to be as intense if they are on their own, but at least they know how to do it."

Other professionals disagree though, and argue that while parents may think they're doing the best thing for their child by buying him or her personal attention, there are other more important and inexpensive steps that should be taken first to address weight loss.

"This is a family issue and the treatment has to be a family issue," said Dr. Ayoob, an expert in childhood obesity and an associate professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. "Sending your kid off to a trainer may be good but not necessarily. It's definitely not better than cleaning up the environment in the house and the home."

He says that whether you have a personal trainer or not, children should aim for 60 minutes of exercise a day, barring any other physical impairment. He adds that in addition to making sure your child gets enough exercise, making sure they cut back on sedentary activities such as watching television is just as important.

"What so many kids are doing is just a fraction above bed rest," said Dr. Ayoob.

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