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posted: 2/4/2015 3:50 PM

Fitness Fun Fair: Energizing kids for a healthy future

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Have you seen the games today's kids are playing? Wow … fast action, high energy and lots of fun.

Problem is, they're played on Xbox and PlayStation. All the action is on the screen, while the players (our kids) are camped on the couch getting only a thumb workout as they play.

While gaming and technology are now a rite of childhood, no measure of surround sound and virtual effects can turn the couch into a playground and deliver the same benefits as active play.

For the sake of kids' health, their well-being and their futures, incorporating fitness into their fun -- and vice versa -- makes for a winning game plan.

That's what the Fitness Fun Fair for Kids aims to do. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7, at the Vaughan Athletic Center, 2121 W. Indian Trail, Aurora, 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 for all to attend.

Despite all our technological luxuries, the pursuit of fitness still requires exercise and play -- yes, physical activity. Sorry kids, sending rapid-fire texts doesn't count as an aerobic workout.

By and large, we -- and our children -- weigh too much and exercise too little. It's a societal issue that's no longer exclusive to adults. Childhood obesity has become a national epidemic and one of the country's biggest public health challenges.

One of every three children in the United States is overweight or, worse, obese. In 1990, just 6.5 percent of U.S. children aged 6 to 11 years were considered obese, but that percentage rose to nearly 20 percent by 2010 -- a threefold increase. Childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the U.S., topping drug abuse and smoking.

With guidance and education, children can start on the right path early and develop beneficial habits that will increase the likelihood of them living longer, healthier lives.

The Fitness Fun Fair promotes exercise as an outlet to fun, rather than a chore that must be performed. When physical activity is viewed as a form of play -- and not work -- kids are more inclined to get involved and stay involved, setting the foundation for a lifetime of fitness, health and good fun.

"We always emphasize fun in our youth exercise programs because the whole idea is to get kids excited about being active," said program supervisor Laureen Baumgartner. "The more they enjoy it, the more likely they are to exercise on a regular basis and view it positively."

The open-house format at the Fun Fair allows families to bounce around among numerous activities that include an obstacle course, KidFit demo, two age-divided bounce houses, dancing/singing to the tunes of DJ Kaptain Karaoke and loads of other activities designed to endear kids to exercise, er, play.

Entertainment is scheduled as well, with family-oriented comic and performer Circus Boy at noon, a Kids Karate Club demo at 1 p.m. and preview performances of "Cupid's Valentine Variety Show," which stages Sunday, Feb. 8, at the Prisco Center.

More than 30 health-conscious vendors will be on hand, with information ranging from rock climbing to nutrition. Representatives from youth sports leagues, education forums and dozens of raffles will be available as well.

Everybody will be focused on 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. Contact him at jlong@fvpd.net

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