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posted: 2/15/2010 12:01 AM

Day of fun, games for kids offered to promote good health

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Today's kids have the best-conditioned thumbs of any generation. Lightning-quick reflexes, too.

Problem is, those are the only targets Xbox and PlayStation hit when it comes to physical benefits.

No measure of surround sound and virtual effects can turn the couch into a ball field or a basketball court. Despite all our technological luxuries, the pursuit of fitness still requires good old-fashioned exercise and play.

No lectures needed here, other than to say that, by and large, we weigh too much and exercise too little. Most of us have good intentions - we work out when we can and try to eat right mostly - but children have a decided advantage over us aged types.

They have a clean slate. Rather than having to undo what's been done over the course of many years, they can be proactive and prevent bad habits from developing. Putting them on that path early increases the likelihood of them living longer, healthier lives.

That's what the Fitness Fun Fair for Kids aims to do. Next Saturday, Feb. 20, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Vaughan Athletic Center, kids and families take center stage at this gala event that will spotlight health and fitness among the younger generation.

And, like the best things in life, the Fitness Fun Fair is free to all who wish to attend.

This year's theme, "Come Out and Play," is a simple yet powerful message.

"Any form of play is beneficial," said recreation supervisor Katie White. "Exercise is more than just walking on a treadmill. It's about being active on a regular basis and making it enjoyable."

But for many children, biking to the playground and playing kick ball in the back yard have given way to watching TV, playing video games and spending endless hours online. Sedentary lifestyles among children - once unthinkable - are giving rise to the growing epidemic that is childhood obesity.

The Fitness Fun Fair will teach children and families that exercise is a way to take care of body, rather than a chore or punishment that must be performed. By promoting activities that incorporate play, kids are more inclined to get involved and stay involved - setting the foundation for a lifetime of fitness, health and good fun.

There's nothing regimented about the Fitness Fun Fair - it will be an open-house format where families can pick and choose and bounce around among numerous activities that include an inflatable obstacle course, bungee runs, KitFit demos, football throws and loads of other activities designed to endear kids to exercise, er, play.

Other highlights include a live DJ and interactive dancing, along with an 11 a.m. performance and presentation by Hip Hop ConnXion, whom White saw during halftime of a Bulls game and knew would be a hit at the Fitness Fun Fair.

More than 25 health-conscious vendors will be on hand as well, including restaurants, water parks, day camps and the like - all of them promoting the most important qualities in life - good health and happiness.

Call it play. Call it exercise. Better yet, call it a lifestyle. The kids won't know the difference. They'll just reap the rewards - for a lifetime.

• Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District.