By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
The “F” in fitness stands for fun — at least it does for several organizations that motivate children to exercise through interactive play activities.
Let’s admit it. The best part of being a kid is the freedom to play so why not enjoy games that are also healthy. According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition; only one in three children are physically active everyday but the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends children get one hour of aerobic activity daily. Physical activity is any exercise or movement that uses energy so the possibilities are endless.
iCORE Fitness in West Chester is enticing both adults and children with their fun-filled obstacle course playground. iCore stands for “Intensive Cardio through Obstacles to gain Results” and the facility uses high intensity interval training in a fun way.
“iCORE Fitness is an all-encompassing extreme fitness facility,” said owner Mark Falcone.
Falcone said the facility has trained a lot of the people that have been on the NBC show “American Ninja Warrior” where competitors do challenging obstacles courses across the country. He said iCore is one of the few ninja warrior specific gyms in the U.S. and athletes come from all over to use their course. The gym has obstacle replicas of everything that is seen on the show such as high bars, rope swings, climbing walls and more.
The show displays athletes doing some of the world’s hardest obstacle courses which is why there is such a big following amongst kids, Falcone said. Children watch the show then want to learn how to do the same kind of obstacles, he said. The gym’s biggest demographic is children and the facility does birthday parties, summer camps and open gym days.
In addition to ninja warrior training, kids can also learn parkour movements which Falcone describes as “the art of free movement.” He said it’s basically like urban gymnastics and there are all different levels for different ages. Parkour comes from the French word “parcours” which means “the way through” or “the path.” The activity originated from a French Special Forces training program known as “Parcours du combattant.”
“It’s just moving freely in an acrobatic way,” Falcone said.
The fitness facility offers a wide variety of obstacles and activities for children to use as their indoor playground. There’s a foam pit, trampolines, a big jumping pillow, tumbling section, monkey bars, cargo nets and lots more. He said parkour and ninja warrior obstacles aren’t about competing with others but about just doing your best. He said it’s a different style of athleticism that “gets rid of the monotonous, repetitive style of working out.”
“It really draws the kids because it’s a lot less structure than normal organized sports. You can go at your own pace and challenge yourself on the obstacles,” Falcone said.
He said even an adult feels like a kid when they are doing this style of fitness because it gets rid of the machines and replaces it with a fun obstacle course. Falcone said this is a workout that people want to do and are excited to do.
“It brings back the fun aspect of working out.”
Fun is a great method to get kids active especially at a time when so many children in the U.S. are obese or overweight. About one in three American kids are overweight or obese, according to the American Heart Association. Obesity in children more than tripled from the year 1971 to 2011.
“Childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking,” states the American Heart Associate website.
Obesity can lead to very serious health problems such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. Physical activity along with good nutrition can help children lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Exercise improves strength and endurance, helps keep bones and muscles healthy and also reduces anxiety and stress, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Another place children can go to for some fun play is Sky Zone. Rachel Robinson, events manager at the Oaks location, said the trampoline parks has lots of activities. There’s a 3D dodgeball court where people can jump up and down but also from side to side with the trampoline walls. There’s a 4-foot foam pit that always exciting to jump into as well as sky slam. Sky slam combines basketball with the act of jumping on a trampoline.
Robinson said the facility also has a large main court for trampoline jumping where kids can use their imagination to create fun games. Sky Zones has several fitness classes for all ages as well. Robinson has taken the aerobics class on the trampoline.
“I can tell you I’ve never sweated so much in my entire life from taking that class,” she said.
The class uses movements that combine running and bouncing which Robinson said helps you improve your balance and strengthen your core. Ab workouts include bouncing on your knees and bouncing on your butt. She said it’s a total body workout.
Robinson said Sky Zone is great place where the whole family can have fun even teenagers. There’s Sky Zone after dark which is a black light experience where everything glows in the dark.
“This is the coolest place ever in my opinion,’ Robinson said.
There are facilities throughout the region that offer fun, playful fitness activities for children and adults. Sky Zone has a location in Glen Mills in addition to the Oaks facility. Other venues that get you moving include Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown featuring a treetop adventures sections which includes climbing and zip lining. Also, Reading Rocks is an indoor rock climbing facility that also has a ropes course.