Fit Kids provides a free after school fitness program to kids in underserved communities.
The Fit Kids Foundation (Fit Kids) was founded in January 2011. Its mission is to promote healthy, active lives for children in underserved Bay Area communities through high quality youth fitness programs and nutrition tips. Fit Kids’ goal is to inspire a love of sports and physical activity that will be the foundation for healthy living, while simultaneously helping to build participants’ positive relationships, self-confidence, independence and ability to deal with adversity.
Physical activity is an essential component of a healthy childhood however far too many young children do not have adequate opportunities to engage in physical activity. Without these opportunities young children are more at risk for obesity and health related problems and in low-income communities children are more at risk for negative social behaviors that potentially have life long consequences. Sadly, many children have limited opportunities to engage in physical activity due to various reasons including cost constraints and lack or program availability both in and out of school. For example, ongoing budget cuts in the state of California have led to drastic reductions in funding for both in-school and after-school programming at public schools. School districts in the state have been forced to close or combine schools, increase class sizes, and reduce or eliminate art, music, and physical education programs. As a result of state cuts to PE programs, more than 1.3 million adolescents (38%) in California do not participate in PE at school, and this rate increases dramatically with age, from just 5% at age 12 to 77% at age 17. Federal guidelines suggest that children and adolescents should participate in physical activity for at least one hour every day, yet only 29% of California’s children, ages 5-11 years, meet this recommendation.
Fit Kids’ program goal is simple: fitness should be fun. Research suggests that physically active children grow up to be physically active adults. In the Fit Kids program, children fall in love with being fit, active, and healthy. By teaching children at a young age that fitness can be fun, and allowing them to enjoy benefits associated with participation in organized sports and fitness classes – such as making healthy choices, achieving and maintaining high academic standards, and experiencing team-building and leadership roles – Fit Kids hopes to raise the trajectory of these children’s lives and see them become healthy, successful, and compassionate teenagers and adults.
Each Fit Kids program is 12 weeks long, meeting for one hour twice a week. Students in each program are selected by the school’s after-school program coordinator, who consults with teachers and school administrators. Participating schools also stipulate the day and time each program class will meet, and assist Fit Kids in acquiring parent/guardian permission for each student’s participation. Three coaches lead each class, enabling Fit Kids to accommodate up to 25 K-2nd grade students – both boys and girls – in each program. Coaches bring all of the equipment necessary to assist children through all activities. Curricula are designed to accommodate groups of diverse physical ability levels, including dynamic activities that showcase each student’s natural strengths while also challenging each child to develop new abilities.
The Fit Kids program is unique because it incorporates aspects of many sports and fitness activities, rather than focusing on a specific sport, to expose children to many different physical activity options. This general approach also helps children develop their entire bodies instead of only certain muscle groups and skills. As a result, the Fit Kids program is attractive and beneficial to both the athletic students and those with less demonstrated physical skills. For the children with a natural inclination towards sports and fitness, Fit Kids helps already athletic students to continue developing their natural skills and building all of the muscle groups in their bodies. These children will be better prepared – both mentally and physically – to participate in organized sports in higher grades. Children less inclined to participate in sports find that Fit Kids simply makes it fun to be active, and that physical fitness leads to confidence in less vigorous pursuits. Regardless of interest or skill level, the fun and engagement children find in the Fit Kids program leads to increased overall health and fitness for every participant.