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."
All exercise is beneficial for the body, but not all exercise is created equal. For years, facilities across the country have offered a plethora of high-intensity interval training programs, but an exclusive option from Matrix Fitness goes beyond HIIT.
Pulsating beats and elevated heart rates. A full array of step platforms or stationary bikes. An instructor working as hard — or harder — than anyone in the room while exhaling instruction into a microphone headset.
By now, you may have heard about Power Plant Fitness, the so-called "marijuana gym." As states around the country adopt a more relaxed stance on recreational marijuana use, entire cottage industries have sprouted around its newfound legality — but Power Plant Fitness represents new territory. Scheduled to open this November in San Francisco, Power Plant claims to be the world's first gym to directly encourage members to partake of marijuana right on location, either before or after a workout.
Middle, High School Fitness Centers Up Student Activity Each center is a cornerstone of a $1.1 million federal grant that is remaking fitness opportunities within their school district. Depew was among 16 districts nationwide last September to receive the Carol M. White Physical Education Program grant, to be distributed over three years. It is designed to help the district start and expand physical education offerings for students across grade levels before, during and after school. read more
Schools Rethinking Recess Time After Benefits Revealed Research suggests recess not only benefits children physically but helps them focus during class and improve grades and test scores. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention review of 50 studies found that recess, movement during lessons and extracurricular activities have a positive association with academics. read more
When the YMCA of Greater Kansas City asked board member Daphne Bascom to review a new job description, Bascom, an Oxford-educated reconstructive surgeon and then-executive at leading electronic medical records provider Cerner Corp., shocked her colleagues by saying she'd like to be considered for the position herself. In January, Bascom accepted a significant pay cut to become not only the Kansas City Y's first senior vice president of community integrated health, but the only physician employed at any Y location outside the national office. AB senior editor Paul Steinbach asked Bascom, 50, who lost both her parents to preventable diseases within the past five years, to describe the motivation behind her career change.