The nation is seeing an increase in fighting among kids, and their parents are encouraging it. Already boasting a strong following among high school participants, MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) classes have drawn more than 3 million children under the age of 13 across the country. While pro MMA organizations like the Ultimate Fighting Championship have given the sport a reputation for no-holds-barred blood baths, it's also gaining acceptance as an athletic discipline, spurred in great part by its preteen participants.
Classes do teach kids to hit, kick and grapple, at a level appropriate for their age, but they also offer many of the same benefits kids get from participating in any other sport. "It's not about fighting," says Jonathan Burke, owner of The VI Levels MMA gym in Ocoee, Fla. "It's about getting in great physical shape, improving your mental focus and discipline."
Moreover, MMA, built in part on the principles of various martial arts disciplines, teaches kids how to defend themselves. "There's such a problem with kids being bullied these days," says Jake Brennan, an instructor at GymX in Waco, Texas. "MMA gives them that boost of confidence to know they're alright walking around school."
The boost of confidence may do more to prevent bullying than the actual defensive skills taught. "Bullies tend to pick on people who are victims," explains Chris Conolley, owner of Spartan Fitness in Hoover, Ala. "These kids carry themselves different, they have the confidence to deal with someone messing with them."
Even so, the classes are a comfort for parents, who know their children have been trained not just physically to be able to protect themselves but also given the mental discipline to discern when it is appropriate to do so. Among those who train at Burke's gym are the sons of MLB's Prince Fielder, who hopes to prevent them from becoming victims of bullying. "It happened to me as a kid, and it happens to them as well," says Fielder.
The sport is not without its risks, but no sport is. Concussions or other injuries are a concern, but perhaps the greatest objection is that children will use their skills in inappropriate ways.
"I can't guarantee they won't be a bully," says Burke, "but I can guarantee that the way we present the information, we're going to make bullying look so bad, they're going to be ashamed to be associated with that word."
'Yoga Saved My Life': Hundreds Flock to Maine Yoga Fest
Inhale. Exhale. All rise and join the conga line. A full moon rose over the East End Saturday night, and 150 yoga enthusiasts in dayglow war paint floated, jumped and lunged on their mats to a hip-pop beat. For 90 minutes the East End Community School gymnasium transformed into a rave fueled by spirit and lit up like a disco. It was the start of the signature event of Maine Yoga Fest -- black light yoga -- and spirits and glow sticks were high. read more
Let's take it as a given that most consumers assume that the process of buying a health club membership will be sales-intensive. Our entire industry has been painted as having high-pressure, lock-people-in-a-cubicle-until-they-sign methods, and consumers enter most clubs with their guard up, waiting for the hard sell.
Opinion: 'Adventure Gym' Better Than High School P.E.
Recently I took part in Arrowhead's Adventure Gym summer course and an adventure is exactly what it was. I, among many students, got the opportunity to participate and enjoy over $500 worth of summer activities for free and received a full gym credit at that. The class was led by three of Arrowhead's finest athletic instructors, Kari Sagal, Del Kaatz and Claudia Kelm. read more
Downtown YWCA Focus Shifts from Fitness to Homeless
It made him sick to his stomach, knowing that the pool was going to close. For years, he'd gone to the Downtown YWCA to swim laps. He found that swimming soothed his injured back, and now he was being told that the pool, the one with the big windows and all that indoor light, was going away. read more
Today's world is "on demand." Didn't catch your favorite TV show? Just watch it on your laptop tomorrow — or wait until the end of the season and binge-watch the entire year. Heard about a great "Tonight Show" sketch? Just go to YouTube. Want to take a group exercise class that's not offered when you're free? Well, there is a growing answer to that, too, and it doesn't involve people moving furniture around their living rooms to make room to follow along with a DVD.
As our country's obesity problem has gained more attention in recent years, many have looked to identify the root of the problem. A recent 20-year study conducted by Stanford University revealed that obesity is not due primarily to over-eating but rather a decline in exercise, which leads to increases in average body mass index (BMI). Categories examined by lead author Uri Ladabaum and his colleagues include: obesity, waistline obesity, physical activity and calorie intake.
"Our findings do not support the popular notion that the increase of obesity in the United States can be attributed primarily to sustained increase over time in the average daily caloric intake of Americans," said Ladabaum, an associate professor of medicine at Stanford. "We found a significant association between the level of leisure-time physical activity, but not daily caloric intake, and the increases in BMI and waist circumference."
In 1994, only 19.1 percent of women admitted to not having any physical activity in their lifestyle, but by 2010, 51.7 percent for women reported that they did not work out. Men only produced 11.4 percent of those who didn't work out in 1994, but saw an increase in 2010 to 43.5 percent. BMI has increased 0.37 percent per year for women and 0.27 percent for men. The researchers found this was the case for both normal-weight and overweight women, while only for overweight men.
Racial groups hit hardest by lack of exercise are African-American and Mexican-American women, according to the study.
Do Older Fitness Trainers Have an Advantage?
Careers typically span 25 to 40 years, but some that rely on physical strength or beauty are shorter than many that. Think professional athletes, dancers or models. The fitness industry, long the bastion of youth and vigor, has been mainstream long enough to have fitness professionals getting into their 50s and 60s. And while there is precedence for older fitness instructors inspiring younger generations for decades, such as the late, great Jack LaLanne, they have been few and far between. Where s Jane Fonda? read more