Revamped YMCA youth center merges fitness and fun

Hala Alaridh, 8, watches while Mckenzie Fitch, 9, jumps in front of the horizontal climbing wall in the Findlay Family YMCA’s newly remodeled Youth Physical Activity Center. (Photo by Randy Roberts)



Children in Findlay are on the move.

That is, they’re getting active and fit at the Findlay Family YMCA‘s new Youth Physical Activity Center.

Program coordinator Chandlar Henry said the center has been revamped in an effort to get children moving.

In the past, she said, parents would bring their children along to the Y when they were exercising. But the children, all too often, would sit in the game room watching television or out in the hallway playing on a smartphone or tablet.

Another motivation for introducing the new center, Henry said, was that in the summer the Y sees many of the same children regularly and they wanted to refresh the space where the children played.

The remodeled youth activity center opened in June. Henry said in the summer months, the space was busiest in the morning, as a lot of the children’s parents were working out at that time of day. But as the weather got colder, children needed things to do — and parents were eager to let them burn off energy.

Eight-year-old Leighton Russell plays on the T-Wall, an interactive machine at the Findlay Family YMCA that combines exercise with gaming. (Photo by Randy Roberts)


Henry said if a child doesn’t want to participate in an organized sport, the center is “something to get them moving.”

The room has games that promote physical fitness with, often, a chance to be competitive. There are X-box bikes, set up so if the child stops pedaling, the video game stops working. And in a two-player game, if either of the players stops pedaling, the game will pause for both. In other games, children can hit or kick pillars, which makes lights go off. A memory game, in which children try to remember colors, allows children to make matches while moving their bodies to hit the panels. Henry said it’s a chance for children to use their arms, but also their minds.

Henry said a goal of the YMCA is to help prevent and address childhood obesity, and this is a step in that direction.

Another bonus? “It is always supervised,” Henry said.

Children will sometimes come to her and say, in a surprised tone, “This is kind of a workout.” In a sense, it’s like they’re being tricked into exercising. But kids take pride in it, too. They may say, “Oh my gosh! I biked this many miles!” Henry said. And they are often competitive with one another.

Henry said staff members are hoping the endeavor will “make fitness seem more fun.”

She also runs a fitness club for children ages 8 to 13, open to YMCA members and nonmembers alike, in which children can earn charms for being active. She has seen it make differences in children’s lives, as she has watched them became more coordinated and grow in confidence.

And she has seen children use the YPAC as a chance to be social and to make new friends. Henry said she has seen children get excited, and she has seen them tell their mom and dad, “Watch this!”

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