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Healthy Kids Day offers important lesson

Alexandria’s Gabriel Strom, 7, hangs upside down from a bar during the open gym at the Healthy Kids Day at the Alexandria YMCA on Saturday. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)1 / 2
Alexandria’s 2-year-old Caleb Dahlheimer jumps on the mini trampoline during the Healthy Kids Day on Saturday.2 / 2

There was a nationwide initiative by YMCAs this past Saturday with one simple but important goal – to encourage kids to get active.

The Alexandria YMCA took part with almost 90 kids and parents who joined in group fitness classes. Many more came to open gym and open swim from 9 a.m. to noon on a day when all of this was free and open to the public.

“I think the best thing that kids can do is just play,” Alexandria YMCA senior program director Jackie Peters said. “Just stay active and get sweaty and red in the cheeks by running in the gym or playing outside with their friends on playgrounds or coming in and doing open swim with their family. Especially elementary kids and younger, it‘s just important for them to move and play and run and just be kids.”

Healthy Kids Day in Alexandria featured an open-gym setting that had everything from basketball and a vault for the older kids to a mini trampoline and mesh tunnels for the youngest to explore.

Those who were up for a little more structured challenge could join in any of three different group exercises that were led on Saturday morning. Kick-box jam started things off at 9 before a family boot camp at 9:45 and a parent/child bodyflow class to round things out.

“I hope they just have fun,” Alexandria YMCA membership coordinator Charlie Hentges said. “I was kind of looking out into the room, and they’re all just looking at me so excited to be here. Their parents are excited that they’re actually listening and following along. I feel like it’s just a good time to open them up to something different that they probably never experienced before and hopefully that will lead them into the future of doing group exercises.”

Hentges taught the bodyflow class that had a combined 30 children and parents take part. The class uses a combination of yoga, Pilates and tai chi. It’s designed around holding poses to help build strength while focusing on breathing. Kids as young as 2 and as old as 10 took part with their families.

“I think it’s great,” Hentges said. “I think the parents are super supportive, and they know that it’s important for the kids to get active and just be active with them and to show a positive example.”

The Healthy Kids Day has been an annual event for the YMCA, but Peters said the turnout on Saturday was enough to encourage them to look at expanding on that throughout the year.

“Just in the past two hours, we’ve gotten great feedback from kids and parents,” Peters said. “I think what we’re going to try to do is quarterly events like this. The least we can do is open up the gym, open up the pool, and we had great participation numbers at the group fitness classes today, so I think that’s something that people would attend in the future. We’re looking forward to quarterly events.”

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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