The very same technological innovations that chain us to our office desks have lured our youngest generation indoors. Instead of physically exploring the world around them, many children spend their free time staring at glowing screens. This sedentary behavior is one of the reasons why 12.7 million kids and adolescents in the United States are struggling with obesity today. However, one fitness education program is proving that just because you'd rather be tuned in to the television or computer doesn't mean you can't be moving while you watch.
Adventure to Fitness, a video-based fitness program that launched in 2010, uses the appeal of technology to its advantage in relating to American youth. The program's 30-minute videos reach kids on their level. The videos get kids active as they navigate through historical periods and geographical scenes, all while learning about nutrition, daily exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits.
According to Dr. Jenny Delfin, the Adventure to Fitness medical advisor and a cardiologist at New York University Langone Medical Center, the program's effectiveness stems from how well the videos engage with each child. Kids retain the valuable lifestyle lessons without even realizing it because of their physical, mental and emotional connection to what they're watching. And 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise each day goes a long way.
The Adventure to Fitness program is currently being used in more than 22,000 schools and 100,000 classrooms worldwide, according to the company website, providing a strong recess alternative for rainy days and the winter months. Some of the schools utilize the videos as a component of after-school programming, giving kids an additional opportunity to jump around, work up a sweat and have a great time before they head home. Teachers and parents alike have found the videos to be an effective tool to help high-energy kids focus in the classroom.
But it's also a benefit for parents who elect to homeschool their children. Without a recess or physical education component already built into their lesson plans, Adventure to Fitness is an affordable solution that the kids ultimately come to love.
Andrew and Juana Keller of Moline, Illinois, homeschool their two daughters, Elizabeth, 4, and Hannah, 2. While neither of the girls struggles with her weight, the Kellers worry that Elizabeth could face challenges later in life.
"Though it seems like she is always moving, she loves to be lazy," Juana Keller told The Huffington Post. "I was exactly like that as a youngster and have battled my own weight for decades, so I easily recognize that without forming good habits around being active, healthful eating and wellness in general, she would be in serious trouble as a teen and an adult."
After seeing the program on a homeschooling ideas Pinterest board, Keller found the concept of an educational program that got her kids moving in an intentional way intriguing. Her attempts with yoga and Zumba videos weren't quite successful, so she hoped that the focus on an adventure rather than movement itself would do the trick. After watching a few episodes, the girls were hooked, and Keller signed up for the monthly subscription plan.
"It's great even for my little ones because they are learning interesting things about different landscape features, animal habitats and conservation, a wide variety of cultural information and introduction to different people groups, as well as getting a good workout and learning about good hygiene and nutrition," she said.
Adventure to Fitness has also been able to help children and families outside of educational settings, reaching into children's hospitals as well as homes of kids who find their outdoor activity limited by preexisting medical conditions.
Stephen and Melody Stroud of Huntsville, Alabama, have two daughters, and Anna, their 5-year-old, isn't able to play outside -- doctor's orders. She has Gorlin Syndrome, a rare genetic condition that severely predisposes her to skin cancer, meaning her exposure to sunlight must be strictly limited. Her parents struggled to find an outdoor play substitute that proved just as engaging for Anna until Stephen came across the video program and decided the family should give it a try together. Anna took to it instantly.
"Before the program, our physical activity was very limited," Melody Stroud told The Huffington Post. "Now, we get a great workout together, and Anna actually asks if we can exercise! The nutrition 'seeds' planted throughout each episode have sparked conversations about what's good to eat and what we should avoid."
Adventure to Fitness has proved to be one of the few successful ways the Strouds can participate in (and enjoy) physical fitness as a family, and the healthy living lessons the girls take away from each episode help foster positive behaviors for the future.
In honor of National Nutrition Month, Adventure to Fitness is donating up to $15,000 worth of free subscriptions to charitable organizations throughout March.
"By providing free access to our program to charitable organizations focused on kids’ wellness, we hope to reach more kids around the world who stand to benefit from Adventure to Fitness' educational, healthy and fun content," Adventure to Fitness CEO Michael Rhattigan said in a statement.
To nominate an organization, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the group's name, website, primary contact information (if available), and the reason why you think they should receive the donation. Organizations must hold a 501(c)(3) designation to be considered. Nominations will be accepted through March 31, 2015, with nominations reviewed and free subscriptions awarded throughout March 2015.