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Fitness Boot Camp For Teens: Cool or Not?

The FitWit Foundation is focused on combating childhood obesity, but I'm wondering if its methods are both healthy and effective. CNN compares the nonprofit's six-week afterschool boot camp program to the Biggest Loser competition: While Biggest Loser rewards adults with large sums of money for meeting fitness goals, FitWit's competition rewards Atlanta Public School students with prizes like an iPod Nano.

Each week, volunteers lead students (who aren't involved in organized sports) through three 60-minute sessions involving fitness instruction and physical health education, and participants do two at-home workouts between sessions. FitWit instructor Ben Thoele said, "After six weeks, all participants have an increased total fitness ability. We averaged over 40 percent improvement in total fitness in our first program last spring. It's common to have a participant double their fitness ability."

I have no doubt participants leave the program with increased fitness levels, but I'm wondering if a six-week competition with prizes is the best way to influence kids to be healthy in the long-term. What do you think of the way the program is set up for students? Is it cool or not?


Join The Conversation
nancyluvs_greece nancyluvs_greece 8 years
I think it's a great idea. Not all kids are good in sports, so I find this a great alternative to keeping fit. Plus most kids these days don't know or care of what they're eating. This seems like it could really educate them and give them a good head start for their future lifestyle choices.
misskacie misskacie 8 years
I don't know how well it would teach the kids about long-term fitness commitments, granted, but it would at least give them the tools and knowledge to try. Knowing how to exercise and what an effective workout feels like could go a very long way, especially if the kids do see/feel shorter-term benefits. Give a man a fish and all that. I strongly agree with misshouston about alternatives to team sports. Those bring a lot of extra pressure to kids who are already out-of-shape or just not interested.
UrbanBohemian UrbanBohemian 8 years
It's like schools paying students to earn straight As at school. The prize is a motivator to work out, but fitness should be a way of life, instead of something that should be done to earn something at the end. It's fitness being done for the wrong reasons.
JessieSP JessieSP 8 years
And the parents also need to choose more wisely while at the grocery store too. There are a lot of quick healthy dinners to make now, that won't take but 5 minutes to prepare and then place in the oven for 30-45 minutes. More children need to understand that snacking is ok sometimes. But it’s better to understand and to follow that a proper diet and exercise program is worth it. Hard work pays off with the mind and body in the future. They’ll be less health risks as an adult, if the children can learn while they’re young.
JessieSP JessieSP 8 years
Yes. Why not send them if they need it. There are too many kids that snack all day. And it doesn't help that almost every middle and high school now has numerous snack and soda machines sitting around the school either. The schools aren't focused on setting up a salad bar for the kids to choose from. If they don't eat what is offered on the lunch line, then the kids head straight to the snack machine. And then when the kids get home, they don't always have the type of dinner they should have either. Some parents are so tired (or lazy) that they pick up restaurant dinner too much during the week, and it's not always healthy either. And then there are parents that insist on allowing their children to over eat at the dinner table in and out of the home at a restaurant. If the kids order and eat it then the parent will pay for it. It comes a time when these types of parents need to say NO.
MaggietheCat MaggietheCat 8 years
There is this attitude going around that working out is nothing more than a weight-loss activity. Adults have been acting this way for years, but it's a bad attitude to have, so why spread it to kids? Why not focus more on the short-term effects of exercise. Short-term is something kids understand better, anyway. Why can't we teach our kids that feeling healthy, having fun, getting that "runner's high," and exercising with your friends are also benefits of exercise? Instead, we're teaching them that exercise is nothing more than a means to weight loss.
jueycruiser jueycruiser 8 years
they give out candy in school for good grades, or getting a right answer in class or whatever. if positive reinforcement is okay in that case, why not? i think a big problem is that a lot of teenagers dont know how to be healthy and fit. i graduated a couple years ago, health class was basically stds and drugs, and gym class was a total of six months (in four years!!) of dodgeball and basketball. it would have been great not only to get that education but also win cool prizes.
Hoaxerz Hoaxerz 8 years
Most kids don't yet understand abstract rewards like good health and happiness - they need material goods. I think the program is great, because it not only gets the kids to exercise, but shows them that hardwork pays off...even if it doesn't always pay out in ipod nanos.
misshouston misshouston 8 years
I think this is a great fitness opportunity for kids who aren't interested in (or don't feel comfortable going out for) organized sports. The rewards (iPods, etc.) serve the purpose of attracting kids to the program, but I have a feeling that once they really get going (like on TBL), they experience firsthand the inherent rewards of a healthy lifestyle and have an incentive to keep it up once the six weeks is over.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
I think it's a pretty good idea. I know it would have helped me when I was a teenager...I would've liked to have some motivation to get started on a workout program (well, something other than just getting healthier because apparently that wasn't enough to motivate me). It took the wakeup call of gaining 30 lbs in college to smack some sense into my head and by that point, I had even more weight to lose. Just as long as the boot camps don't get obsessive, to the point where the kids feel pressured to lose X lbs in 6 weeks or doing unhealthy things like taking diuretics/fasting/etc.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
I don't see a problem with it. I would have loved this when I was a teen, since I wasn't good at sports (I run into doors occasionally, so the thought of me with a stick and ball is not good). Actually, I got kicked off of the field hockey team. Anyway, if this gets kids into fitness, why not?
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i'm a bit undecided. i really do think that it's a great idea in theory but i'm always a bit skeptical about teens getting into hard core things like a boot camp at an early age. yes it'll teach you how to exercise and be conscious about what you're doing and how you can be healthy, but that's also the time that you start to get obsessive about things.
margokhal margokhal 8 years
Why not? Rewards are usually very good initial motivators to get people started on healthy habits...or anything really. It works with training animals, and it's definitely prevalent when we teach children other things...I see nothing wrong with an iPod as a reward for a child making the effort to change their lifestyle. It might even keep them active beyond the program!!! The only problem I would see is if this boot camp program was NOT voluntary. You can't force kids to do anything they don't want to do, even if it is in an attempt to better their health.
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