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."
Whether 2014 is indeed the "year of the wearable" as predicted at International CES remains to be seen, but there's no doubt that the ability to capture data about lifestyle and exercise habits is significantly impacting the way people work out — and there's still a great deal of potential to be realized. "When people engage with tech, they're beginning to expect that something is being captured about that experience," says David Flynt, director of Precor's Experience Development Center. "Today's wearables are really great at capture. What we want to be able to do is reflect back to them something that is able to give them control over that data. We're looking at how to help them understand what that data means."
Tampa Bay Rowdies Video Hopes to Inspire P.E. Students
Pinellas County physical education teachers are hoping a workout video made with the Tampa Bay Rowdies will encourage their students to be a bit rowdier in and out of their classes. A few Lakewood High School football players and Osceola Middle School students this summer teamed up with the Rowdies on an education video to show in every physical education class in the county. Local Rowdies players Anthony Wallace, Kyle Clinton, Brian Shriver, JP Rodrigues and Blake Wagner trade off demonstrations with the students of how to properly perform exercises for class. The video is paid for by the Carol M. White Physical Education Program, a three-year federal grant to improve students' health by disguising it as fun, elementary physical education teacher Angela Carapella said. When the school district won the grant last fall, it found middle schoolers' scores on their yearly fitness tests were at an all-time low. Pinellas was one of 60 school districts awarded the grant by the U.S. Department of Education, which doles out about $775,000 for each year. read more
K9 Fit Club Builds on Benefits of Owner-Dog Exercise
Kelle King wore leggings and a Spandex tank top as she lunged back and forth over a step platform. Her workout partner, Kaiya, wore a collar and leash for her turn to leap across. King, 30, and her year-old German shepherd mix were demonstrating pieces of gym equipment that pets and people can use together to stay fit, at last week's IDEA World Fitness Convention at the Anaheim Convention Center. read more
Not every kid likes to play sports. For the athletically disinclined, a game of gym class dodgeball or basketball can be an anxiety-inducing experience. In fact, a recent study by researchers at Brigham Young University found that kids who were ridiculed in gym class (by peers and teachers) were less likely to engage in physical activity one year later — not good news for a nation facing an obesity and sedentary-lifestyle epidemic.
Ever wonder how your facility’s fitness programs and classes stack up against others in the industry? Here’s your chance to find out. Athletic Business is conducting an industry-wide survey to learn more about fitness facility classes and programs. Please take a few minutes to answer the following survey questions, and look for a compilation of industry-wide results in our October issue.
Call it a sport. Call it a recreational activity. Call it a great workout. Just don't call it a fad. Participation in rock climbing has been steadily increasing for years, and climbing walls — already commonplace in campus and municipal recreation centers — are popping up in high schools and elementary schools, parks and health clubs, even stadiums.