The Culpeper Wellness Foundation’s mission to improve health and promote wellness definitely extends to the younger members of our community! Efforts to engage kids in physical activity are centered in Culpeper Sport & Fitness (CSF) and Powell Wellness Center (PWC).

Over the last year CSF has increased its kids programming to include tumbling, tae kwon do, the B-Board® balance workout, boot camp, athletic performance, and tennis. An ongoing partnership with Kid Central and more recent partnership with Options bring dozens of kids to CSF regularly to enjoy sports like tennis and sample activities like boot camp with CSF trainers and instructors.

This focus on expanding youth fitness programs developed out of CSF manager Preston Will’s own experience as a kid playing tennis and soccer in Culpeper. His goal is to make sure that youth in Culpeper have the same opportunities for activity that he enjoyed.

CSF personal trainer Marcus Haywood leads the athletic performance and bootcamp sessions for kids. He says, “Involvement in these classes gives kids an outlet to have fun and release energy. They bring friends to participate and share the fun. Others focus on training for their sport if they are not presently in a sports program.”

Looking in on a boot camp session, it may appear to be all about fun. However, Marcus is basically teaching the kids how to exercise, and the benefits are broad. He says, “Whether we’re on the rings or crawling through the tires, I focus the activities on building strength and range of motion, and developing better balance. We work on body movements that correlate with forward, backward and lateral movement. This is physical development that supports everyday health: you don’t have to play a sport to benefit. They learn proper warm ups and stretching.”

At PWC, kids can learn to swim, dance in Zumba class, and also have their own track in the physician-referred FitScripts program. The FitScripts track for kids ages 10-14 focuses on supporting their understanding of how exercise can contribute to good health. To help with weight management or another health condition, kids participate in a fitness routine that addresses their health needs and encourages them to take responsibility for their health.

Exercise specialist Bobby Zajkowski, who also coaches youth basketball, brings enthusiasm to his twice weekly FitScripts sessions with the kids. He says, “Some of the participants have played sports, others’ experience is limited to physical education classes. At first, walking into the wellness center, they’ve got that deer-in-the-headlights look. It can be intimidating. But I encourage them to do what they can do. It’s great to see the new kids being helped by those who have been in the program for a while.”

“Our program includes body weight exercises such jumping jacks or crab walks, cardio – perhaps laps around the indoor track – and some weight lifting that works the larger muscle groups. Because kids are still growing, weight lifting is very light for safety reasons,” Bobby adds. During the program, kids learn their way around PWC and develop a level of comfort with a fitness setting.

Bobby emphasizes the confidence that physical fitness brings can touch all aspects of life. “We talk about sports and the kids might mention a sports hero like LeBron James or Stephen Curry. I’ll remind the kids, ‘you know, they started somewhere too’.” That’s an inspiring perspective for kids starting their own fitness journey.

Want to encourage your child to engage in more physical activity? Here are a few tips from the CSF and PWC pros:

  • Encourage active fun like bike riding, shooting basketballs or going for a walk together.
  • Lead by example. When taking a child to a sports session or fitness class, plan your own exercise during that time, and share your plans with them.
  • Be positive about their experience, remembering that sports help kids develop who they are and build camaraderie and self-confidence.
  • Let them try different activities, if you’re able to be flexible. One of those activities may become a lifetime pursuit.