CINCINNATI -- A new fitness program is helping Tri-State kids improve their health while having fun.
Created by certified personal trainer Barbara Wenning last October, #fitkids is a weekly workout program for 5- to 15-year-olds. Although the program originally was geared toward girls, it recently expanded to include boys.
Each Saturday of the five-week program, kids spend one hour at Gymbo’s Personal Training and Fitness Center in Western Hills doing speed and agility training and core conditioning.
“I just try to make sure that they’re having fun, and it’s all about being active and healthy,” Wenning said.
While Wenning was athletic from a young age, she tended to focus her energy on cardio exercise, not realizing she needed a more varied routine to be truly healthy.
“I was always active as far as sports growing up and I was a runner, but I had never really lifted weights,” she said.
After working with a personal trainer, who helped get her into weight lifting, she was inspired to help others achieve their fitness goals.
“I thought I would love to do this and help other people the way my trainer helped me,” Wenning said.
She was so inspired that she enrolled in classes at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. She earned her ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) and NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) certifications and left her longtime career at TriHealth to become a personal trainer at Gymbo’s.
For the past five years, she’s worked one-on-one training people – primarily women – in how to exercise and make healthy choices.
“She just loves to help everybody out and get everybody educated on health and fitness,” said Kristy Ward, one of Wenning’s clients whose daughter is involved in #fitkids.
It was through one of Wenning’s clients that she got the idea to start a program for kids.
“I’m a single mom, so a lot of times when I would go in I would have to bring my daughter, and she would do a lot of the exercises with me,” said Kristin McGaha, whose daughter is in the #fitkids program.
Wenning started the program in October, thinking she would offer a single five-week session, but it was so popular she decided to continue and expand the program to include both boys and girls.
“It just kind of took off from there,” Wenning said.
While the sessions are five weeks long, kids aren’t required to attend each class, and parents pay only for the number of classes their children attend.
Each week, weather permitting, Wenning takes the youths outside where they stretch, flip tires, jump rope and do push-ups, among other activities. She encourages her students to keep food journals and gives them challenges, like trying a new fruit or vegetable during the week.
Encouraging kids to take responsibility for their own eating and exercise habits empowers them and helps build their self-esteem, she said.
“They get really excited about choosing different healthy alternatives,” McGaha said.
Wenning also talks to the kids about bullying and the importance of being strong not only physically but mentally.
“I was really surprised about how much bullying actually is going on in the schools right now,” Wenning said.
“A lot of the girls were coming to me telling me that they were picked on in school … and that they wanted to be skinny,” she said.
While other youth fitness programs are available around Greater Cincinnati, Wenning tries to set #fitkids apart by focusing on overall fitness and loving oneself over weight and appearance.
Unlike many other programs in the region, #fitkids also combines a broad age range within a single group.
Whether kids join the group at 5, 15 or somewhere in between, giving them an opportunity to learn about healthy decision-making in youth sets the tone for the rest of their lives, McGaha said.
“It’s important to start at a young age,” McGaha said. “That way they can kind of adapt that healthy lifestyle throughout their entire life.”