Junkfood Science: Body Work

August 10, 2007

Body Work

Kids are feeling pressure to devote their energies to body work at increasingly younger ages. In the latest obsession to motivate kids to lose weight, get “tighter tummies” and bigger muscles, and improve their racing times, growing numbers of parents are hiring personal trainers ... for their elementary school children.

We’ve already examined the medical research showing the physical toll on children of efforts to whip them into shape, with kids as young as four being treated with injuries caused by excessive exercise, and repetitive stress injuries so common today they can be called Little League-itis. And the pressures for a perfect body is understandably leading to the growing problem of eating disorders among young athletes trying hard to conform. Yet parents and media aren’t looking at any of the downsides to this latest fad, as the New York Journal News reports:

More children hiring personal trainers

At age 15, Julia Tanenbaum of MountKisco decided she wanted to dr op a few pounds. But altering her eating habits didn't help much... Julia's mother suggested she hire a personal trainer... Julia is one of thousands of children who are turning to professionals to get in shape. Last year, more than 1 million American youngsters used personal trainers to lose weight, improve fitness or hone their sports skills. According to the Boston-based International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, children under 18 accounted for 17 percent of the 6.3 million people who used trainers in 2006. The association's spokeswoman, Rosemary Lavery, partly attributes the jump to parents' concern about child obesity...

So today's parents see a personal trainer as a phys-ed tutor who can help a struggling child get fit. Some also view a trainer as a tool to give already active kids an edge. "School sports are much more competitive now," says Peter Marino, owner of Fitness3.com, a Briarcliff-based company that provides in-home trainers. "They're sort of training like athletes. When 11-year-old Sammy Ganeles of Armonk worried that his basketball skills would falter over the summer, his parents hired trainer Courtney Young...

As Club Fit's director of personal training, Barbara Cullen says that she's seen a sharp increase in the number of kid clients, who pay up to $80 for an hour-long session (the same fee as adults).... One of those youngsters is 10-year-old Bryan Krosser of Chappaqua, who has worked with a trainer twice a week - a requirement for members of Club Fit's swim team - since he was 8....

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