Innovative programming ideas aimed at motivating members to exercise with all featured programs submitted by readers.

Kids Get Lean at Local YMCA Wheeler Regional Family YMCA, Plainville, Conn.

RECOGNIZING THE NEED to address the obesity epidemic among children, Wellness Director John Izzo at the Wheeler Regional Family YMCA, Plainville, Conn., designed Kid L.E.A.N. (Learn Everything About Nutrition) to reinforce and complement the nutrition education programs that children receive in school.

Started in November 2004, the program is designed for two age groups: seven through 11, and 12 through 17. Each program consists of two 30-minute sessions, and is tailored to the age group and fitness levels. The first 30 minutes consists of basic nutrition information, including the food pyramid, vegetable and fruit selection, hydration and food portioning. The second 30-minute session consists of physical activity in the form of bodyweight exercises in circuits. Izzo says that Kid L.E.A.N. also contains art activities, including coloring pictures of fruits and vegetables, word searches and food mazes for the younger group, and homework assignments to track physical activity, identify nutrition labels and food pyramids for the older group. The program meets on Saturday afternoons at two different times to accommodate both groups. And, says Izzo, instructors follow up with students during the week with phone calls and homework reminders.

To date, five seven-week sessions of Kid L.E.A.N. have been held, with 35 kids successfully completing the program, and with many compliments coming from parents and members. "Kid L.E.A.N. is designed ... to help children make better food choices and include physical activity in their lives," says Izzo. It "stands out among the many youth programs at the Wheeler Regional YMCA because it addresses a real problem, and caters to a future of rectifying that problem.

Women Stay Slim at Powershop Gym Powershop Gym, Brookings, S.D.

PAM STERN, OWNER of Powershop Gym, Brookings, S.D., must have been greatly inspired by the book, Strong Women Stay Slim, written by Dr. Miriam Nelson. Not only did she read it, but she has helped the members of her facility to achieve their wellness goals by using the book to design the Strong Women Stay Slim program.

Open to 20 women each 10-week session, participants are required to work out as a group three times a week, performing both cardio and weight workouts using heart rate monitors. Each week, a coaching session is provided to discuss the book, which, according to Stern, goes into great detail about the importance of strength training and how it affects metabolism. "A lot of women have a misconception about weight training, so they just do cardio," says Stern. Participants also turn in their diet journals each week, and learn about their basal metabolic rate and the importance of protein, fiber and metabolism.

As of this writing, Stern was in in the middle of conducting her third 10-week program, each of which have been a success, with more than 50 percent of participants still working out three times a week. "Word of mouth is my greatest form of advertising," says Stern.

Personal Best 'Pays' to Exercise Personal Best Strength Training, Neosho, Mo.

IF THE BENEFITS of exercising and eating right aren't enough to convince members to get on a program, then the next best step is topay them. At least, that's what the staff at Personal Best Strength Training, Neosho, Mo., decided when they began their Iron Maiden/Iron Man program at the beginning of June.

The program rewards members with $2 of training-fee discounts each week if they meet the requirements of the program, which include: 1) turning in their daily calorie intake each week to the front desk, 2) turning in their daily step-count (totalling at least 49,000 each week) to the front desk, 3) getting weighed in weekly and maintaining their weight and 4) working out at least three times a week. "Each week they complete all of the four requirements," explains Owner Sherry Woitowitz, "their training account is credited $2." Woitowitz says they also post the names of the people who were paid each week on their "wall of fame," as well as the names of the top-three walkers each week, and the week's biggest "loser."

Attendance is up due to the program, according to Woitowitz, and because it's a weekly program, members can get started at any time. "Summer time is generally a time of year when people blow off their workouts," she says, "but this year, our clients are excited about being consistent." Woitowitz says that 100 percent of their members are participating in the program, and 10 percent of them completed all four conditions and received payoff in the first month.