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Fighting Childhood Obesity through Play

 

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Unhealthy kids are growing into unhealthy adults, causing a major health care problem in the United States.

When it comes to helping kids form healthy habits, it’s best to start young. Studies have shown that different types of exercise affect a child’s mental capacity in a variety of ways. A simple 20-minute walk can immediately affect a child’s attention, function and academic success. However, the reverse is true for highly structured, rule-based exercise, such as a sport or coordination drills. This type of exercise may be too taxing for children immediately before a test or other activity that requires sustained focus. Instead, higher intensity exercises seem to build a child’s attention span gradually over time. Children who are physically fit perform better in attention tests–even small improvements in fitness lead to noticeable changes in the brain.

Participating in sports or other fitness-driven activities, especially right after the school day, can be a natural and less forced outlet to allow children to build up their attention span while having fun. Cooper Fitness Center’s IGNITE! program combines fitness, sports, movement and games to help improve athletic performance for this purpose. In the long run, children are learning how to focus for future tests and other tasks that require concentration.

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Kids develop athletic skills during Cooper Fitness Center’s IGNITE! program.

Various studies have linked academic performance to overall health and fitness in children. Data taken from students in California show the following relationships between fitness and academics:

  • Higher levels of fitness = increased math testing scores
  • Higher levels of fitness = increased language arts testing scores
  • Healthier lunches = increased math and language arts testing scores
  • Higher levels of fitness = higher school attendance rate
  • Higher levels of fitness = fewer negative school incidents

A study of more than 2.4 million Texas students found that students who are physically fit are more likely to do well on the state’s standardized tests and have higher school attendance. Physically fit students are also less likely to have disciplinary problems. The Cooper Institute developed FitnessGram, the first “student fitness report card,” in an effort to improve school physical education programs and children’s health.

“The impact exercise has on the growing brain is unparalleled,” says Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, founder and chairman of Cooper Aerobics. “Increased exercise improves cardiovascular health, and that helps the brain function more efficiently and enhances its ability to learn.”

Playing sports such as tennis or basketball can help children improve their attention while also helping them reach a higher level of fitness, which is beneficial to them at both a young age and as they grow into adults.

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Improving skills on the court with Cooper Fitness Center Tennis Pro Corey Noel.

It is recommended that students do at least 60 minutes of vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity every day, with more than half occurring during regular school hours and the remaining outside of school. Estimates suggest only about half of U.S. children meet this guideline.

Cooper Fitness Center offers various after-school youth programs to help kids get up and moving while boosting their brain power. Learn more about sport-specific programming and other youth programs at cooperyouth.com/dallas.

Conquering the Summer Camp Swim Test

Sneakers? Sunscreen? Sleeping bag? All may be necessary items for summer camp, but children should also be armed with top-notch swim skills. Cooper Fitness Center Swim Pro Marni Kerner helps kids of all ages prepare for swim tests that are often required at summer day camps and overnight camps.

Each test varies in length and intensity. Some require a child to swim the length or width of a pool, but others require performing all four competitive strokes–freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly–in open water situations. If a child is unable to pass the designated swim test, he or she may have limited access to water activities throughout the duration of the camp, or may be required to wear a life jacket when swimming in a pool or open water.

Training with a certified swim instructor prior to taking a swim test has numerous benefits:

  • Sharpens the child’s skills early in the summer, since it has likely been a while since the child has swam longer distances
  • Introduces specific stroke training to those who may not be familiar with all four competitive strokes
  • Increases physical strength and endurance
  • Improves stroke techniques
  • Builds confidence in the swimmer

In addition to working on swim skills, each swimmer also learns water safety and rest strokes, including how to bob and tread water in order to conserve energy.

Children may only need one lesson to refresh their swim skills, but others may take up to five or six lessons to prepare for their specific test. The time and effort invested is worth it so the kids can enjoy an exciting and safe summer in the water.

For more information about Cooper Fitness Center swim programs, visit cooperswimacademy.com or call Swim Pro Marni Kerner at 972.233.4832, ext. 5447.

Dive In to Summer with Cooper Swim Pro Marni Kerner

Learning to swim can be a challenging experience, no matter if you’re a child or an adult. If you’re searching for the perfect swim program for your child or for yourself, making a decision can be stressful as well. Cooper Fitness Center offers swim lessons for all ages, Marni Kernerand Swim Pro Marni Kerner explains a few aspects of her instruction that sets her programs apart from others.

It’s All About the Swimmer

Only small groups of swimmers will be found in the Cooper Fitness Center lap pool – Marni offers private and semi-private lessons for kids and teens in order to personalize each lesson and hone in on each swimmer’s development. This allows swimmers to continue advancing in their skillset, instead of plateauing after a certain point.

Although Marni works with both children and adults, she does not offer “mommy-and-me” lesson options. Having a parent in the water at the same time as a young child can sometimes keep the child from focusing on the lesson and building independent skills. However, while some programs don’t allow parents to observe the lesson in progress, Marni encourages parents to stick around the pool during each lesson, and she makes sure to provide feedback and instructions for at-home activities to each parent. Additionally, Marni  does offer parent/child sessions for children 8+ years old. This is often a great option for a child learning to swim alongside his or her parent or when a parent and child are training for a triathlon.

Safety First

Safety is the top priority for Marni and her swimmers, but she also focuses on making sure each swimmer is enjoying him or herself throughout the lesson. She lists a few practices that some people might think are safe, but could potentially be dangerous for new swimmers:

  • Goggles or no goggles? Marni discourages her youngest swimmers from wearing goggles during lessons so they become accustomed to opening their eyes underwater without becoming disoriented. This is a great safety measure for kids – if a child happened to unexpectedly fall in a pool, he or she would not become disoriented by the water in their eyes.
  • Floaties or Fins? Items such as water wings and other inflatables can give a false sense of security and can actually be quite dangerous. They still allow for a child to fall forward into the water and takes away from learning proper water balance. Instead, Marni is a big proponent of using water fins during swim lessons, as they help with efficiency and development of muscle memory for kicking. It can be challenging for new swimmers to learn how to kick, and using tools such as fins can make it a steadier process.
  • Holding your breath or blowing bubbles? Teaching children to hold their breath for as long as possible while swimming is not a tactic Marni recommends. In fact, she and her swimmers focus on blowing bubbles as much as possible, which helps early development of proper breathing patterns. When younger swimmers hold their breath for too long, they can start to take in water, which can cause many issues. There have also been instances when older swimmers who try to hold their breath for too long have actually passed out while swimming laps.

A Unique Environment

All of Marni’s private lessons focus on individual skill development, which is not standard in larger group programs. Swimmers, including toddlers, take lessons in Cooper Fitness Center’s lap pool, which helps develop skills with regard to distance and endurance.

Additionally, the unique Cooper campus provides an experience all its own for swimmers and their parents alike – especially when a duck or two hop in the pool to join in the lesson!

Though her typical swimmer is between four and eight years old, Marni offers services for all ages, needs and abilities. Her youngest swimmer is 10 months old, and her oldest recently turned 89.  She works with children on the learning spectrum, those who are rehabilitating an injury and high-level competitive swimmers. To learn more about Marni and Cooper Fitness Center’s swim programs, visit cooperyouth.com/dallas.

Fueling Your Kids in the Fast Food Lane

September 22, 2015 Leave a comment

The race is on!  School has started, activities are abundant and as a parent you are faced with balancing a very hectic schedule. It can be challenging to plan healthy snacks and figure out sensible choices when the convenience of fast food is inevitable.

Snacks can help bridge the gap between lunch and dinner by acting as fuel to supplement your kids’ diet, but not sabotage their appetite.

Secrets to Snacking Success:

  • Keep snacks around 150-200 calories.
  • Plan snacks to avoid snack “attacks.”
  • Limit high-fat, high-sugar foods in the house.
  • Keep serving sizes in check. For example, a ½ cup serving of Chex Mix has 150 calories, but a child can easily eat one or more cups which can double or triple the calories.
  • Pre-portion snacks in small bags instead of grabbing straight out of the container.
  • Serve snacks at the table, not in front of a screen.
  • Involve your child and give him or her choices.
  • Pair fiber-rich carbs with protein. See examples below.
Instead of This:                                                                     Try This:
1 ½ cups of Chex Mix:  450 calories 100 calorie bag of light microwave popcorn and

Light Babybel Cheese:  150 calories

Sonic chocolate milkshake (mini):  570 calories Fruit smoothie: blend fat free milk, frozen strawberries, ½ frozen banana and vanilla for 20 to 30 seconds:  200 calories
Oreo Mini Chocolate Sandwich Cookies Go Pak, 3.5 oz.: 455 Calories Spread fat free frozen yogurt between 2 sheets of graham crackers and thinly sliced ½ banana or ½ cup strawberries.  Freeze, if desired:  175-200 cal.
2 oz. bag of Cheetos: 340 calories  16 Tostitos Oven Baked Scoops with 4 Tbsp. bean dip mixed with 3 Tbsp. salsa:  200 calories
1 cup of ice cream:  320 calories Sugar cone filled with nonfat Greek yogurt and sliced fruit:  150 calories
Peanut butter sandwich with 2 Tbsp. peanut butter and 1 Tbsp. jelly:  380 calories Mini Pizza:  toasted whole wheat English muffin with pizza sauce sprinkled with 2% shredded cheese:  200 calories
1 cup granola cereal and milk:  500 calories Kashi Chocolate Almond & Sea Salt Chewy Granola Bar with ½ Tbsp. peanut butter:  190 calories

When it’s snack or dinner time and you’re running from soccer practice with one child to flute lessons with another, a grab-and-go fast food meal seems to be the answer.  Try to choose wisely so you don’t get short-changed on nutrition and end up with an excess load of calories and fat.

Tips to Navigate Fast Food:

  • Know before you go! Review menus with your children and have a plan of action for healthy choices.
  • Go for balance. Even fast food restaurants offer salads and fruit.  Substitute them for fries.  If fries are ordered, split them among several people at the table.
  • Downsize portions instead of supersizing! Portion control is the key. The average hamburger in the 1950’s was 1.5 ounces and today is 8 ounces.
  • Skip the liquid candy! Order low-fat milk or water instead of sodas or lemonade.
  • Trim the high fat, high calorie extras, including mayonnaise, dressings, sauces and cheese.
Instead of this: Try this:
Subway

6” turkey, ham, or roast beef

Chips

Cookie

21 ounce soda:  930 calories

Subway Fresh Fit for Kids

4” turkey, ham, or roast beef

Apple slices

Low-fat milk:  320 calories

Chick- fil-A

6-count nuggets

Waffle fries

Soda:  770 calories

Chick-fil-A

6-count grilled nuggets

Honey barbeque sauce or Buttermilk Ranch sauce

Fruit cup

Low fat milk:  300-345 calories

Chipotle

Burrito – flour tortilla, chicken, rice, cheese, and lettuce:  800 calories

Chipotle Kids Meal

Kids corn tortilla cheese quesadilla with black beans , low fat milk, and orange:  385 calories

McDonald’s Kids Mighty Meal

McDouble cheeseburger

Small French fries

Go-Gurt

Fat-free chocolate milk:  800 calories

McDonald’s Kids Meal

Hamburger

Kids’ fries

Apple slices

Low-fat milk:  475 calories

As a parent, the most important point to remember is you are your child’s role model and most influential teacher.  Their little eyes are on you, so practice what you preach. Don’t pig out when you eat out!  Instead, guide your children toward making better choices. Realize occasional indulgences are fine and can be worked into any healthy eating plan.  It’s not what you do on once every so often, it’s what you do every day that counts!

IGNITE! Your Fitness

January 14, 2015 Leave a comment

Post provided by Meredith Rosson, Youth Programs Director at Cooper Fitness Center.

In any goal-oriented class it’s vital to have one or two participants committed to that goal to serve as role models. Amanda fills that role for the IGNITE! class at Cooper Fitness Center. Amanda has been a participant for more than two years and during that time she has won the highest steps total and highest average step total for the monthly class periods numerous times, highlighting both her effort during class and her consistency in attendance. Since 2011, Amanda has participated in more than 72 IGNITE! classes which include balance, 3D strength exercises, agility, speed, change of direction, plyometrics, hand-eye coordination and competitive games of various nature. Her understanding of these exercises has greatly improved and most importantly her quality of movement has improved. These accomplishments have given Amanda the confidence and skills to be successful when she chooses to play soccer, softball, volleyball or any other physical sport or activity.

Amanda and her mom, Sarah, answered a few questions about her IGNITE! Experience at Cooper Fitness Center below.

What made you initially sign up for IGNITE?
Sarah: Amanda’s pediatrician, Ron Blair, M.D., recommended that Amanda get involved in a fitness program at Cooper Fitness Center. As a family, we reviewed the information on the IGNITE! program and felt that it would be perfect for Amanda.

Amanda: I participated in the first session and enjoyed the activities and games.

Being the most dedicated participant, what makes you sign up month after month for this program and fit it in to your daily routine?
Amanda: I enjoy getting exercise every couple of days. I also enjoy learning new skills for sports. IGNITE! makes exercise fun and I like the competition.

In what areas do you feel you have improved the most?
Sarah: The program has had a positive effect on her being confident in other activities like soccer, softball and gym class.

Amanda: I’ve improved the most in strength, agility and speed.

How would you describe the program to your friend?
Amanda: Fun, but also challenging. You learn something new every day and get better at something, too.

How’s Coach Shannon Edwards?
Sarah: Shannon is both skillful and knowledgeable in directing this program. He has a unique ability to motivate and educate each child while taking into account their individual abilities.

Amanda: He’s really nice and very patient when he teaches you something. He doesn’t go over a skill too quickly and explains it so everybody knows what they’re doing.

What do you enjoy most about IGNITE!?
Amanda: I enjoy learning a new skill every day and then sometimes we get a challenge. I enjoy how Coach Shannon puts our lesson into a game and we use our skills in a game.

What game or drill do you enjoy the most and which one do you find to be the most challenging?
Amanda: My favorite drill is Slingshot because we get to run really fast. The most challenging one is Tall Falls because we start to fall but we run as we fall.

What level have you made it to in IGNITE!?
Amanda: I am beyond the top level!

Anything else to add to get others excited about this program?
Amanda: It is a worthwhile program and I have recommended it to my friends.

Sarah: Our observation is that Amanda looks forward to participating in every session. She also seems to enjoy the other participants and has made some new friends. Finally, we are impressed with the organization and oversight of the IGNITE! program and feel that it meets the standards that one expects from a Cooper Program.

Sarah, some thoughts on changes in Amanda?
In the first basic session, Shannon began to teach Amanda how to run. Amanda has enjoyed her time in the program and does not perceive it as an exercise chore. IGNITE! has definitely improved her agility, flexibility and endurance, and has given a proper perspective on competing to win. Every year we look at all her activities soccer, IGNITE!, dance and tennis. When schedules get more difficult, she rates her activities by enjoyment and IGNITE! is always at the top of her list.

Amanda is a wonderful example of how a kid can come into IGNITE! and have a positive experience with physical activity and allow it to change their life for the better. At Cooper Fitness Center, we always encourage the IGNITE! Participants; it’s not how well they perform a movement the first time they try it, it’s the effort put forth and the improvement. Amanda has given the good effort and now she moves skillfully and with an understanding of how to control her body during exercise. Her willingness to work hard and have fun is contagious!

Read testimonials from other parents and kids’ who participate in Cooper Fitness Centers’ Youth Programs. For more information, visit cooperyouth.com/Dallas or call 972.233.4832, ext. 6402.

Hoop it Up at Cooper Fitness Center

September 17, 2014 Leave a comment

Led by Basketball Pro Coleman Crawford, Fall Basketball Academy will give your kids and teens an extra “edge” the rest of the team won’t have! With 30+ years of coaching experience, Coach Crawford has the proven ability to bring out the best in young players.

Most recently, Coach Crawford returned from Hong Kong to visit friends in the basketball community to sharpen his coaching skills and learn from the large basketball community in China. Each year, he utilizes his time in August to explore international coaching to bring new techniques to the basketball program at Cooper Fitness Center. Aside from China, Coach Crawford has also visited Africa, Belgium, South Korea and several other countries to explore his passion for coaching young athletes.

Through basketball strength training, agility and footwork drills and scrimmage play players learn the mental and strategic aspects used in a game setting at Fall Basketball Academy. If you’re looking for an opportunity for your all-star player to sharpen their skills, sign up at Cooper Fitness Center, Sept. 21-Nov. 16. There is limited space available so register today!

For more information, visit cooperyouth.com/dallas or call 972.233.4832, ext. 4380.

Cooper Fitness Center Renovation Celebration

In February Cooper Fitness Center celebrated the completion of its $7.5 million renovation. We marked this milestone the Cooperized way with a ribbon run-through and media were on-hand to capture the moment. We also had a members’ event and Cooper Aerobics teammates (employees) demonstrated exercises in each of the newly-renovated areas.

Not only did the renovation bring expansion to the facility, modern technology and beautiful finishings, but it was a milestone in the aerobics movement Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper started in 1968. Watch the video below to hear about Dr. Cooper’s impact and the vision his son, Dr. Tyler Cooper, has for Cooper Fitness Center to Cooperize the next generation.


View Photo Gallery | Read News Release | Request a Tour | Visit cooperfitnesscenter.com

The next phase of the campus-wide renovation is Cooper Hotel & Conference Center. Read the press release, see photos of the progress and stay tuned!