Fitness from the get-go

  • Best place to take your kids on a rainy day: My Gym (tie). Maddie Kim runs through padded pylons. JB

Griffin Moise is only 16 months old. But dad Sean is already making sure that his young son, having now mastered walking, gets conditioned to a lifetime of physical fitness — starting now.

Sean and his wife, Fiona, both nurses, have decided that until Griffin is at least 2, they will keep him away from screens of any kind and instead, play with him hands on, inside and outside.

"They say the first two to three years of life are really important developmentally for children and to set the habits now," said the 41-year-old Forestville father.

On a weekday morning in March he has brought Griffin to My Gym, a Santa Rosa fitness studio that features organized exercise classes designed specifically for very young kids, ranging from age 9 all the way down to 3 months.

In this class, "Waddlers" from 14 to 22 months old get a workout with their parents, presented with music, imagination, motion and quick changes in activities, all choreographed in a way that seems more like play than exercise. The room is as colorful as a tropical fruit basket and filled with balls, swings, monkey bars and other interactive toys.

Experts say that is the key to inspiring kids, growing up in a world that is increasingly sedentary and filled with calorie-laden "entertainment" foods, to get moving.

"Many parents are so stressed and so busy. They don't tend to play with their kids," said Dr. Patricia Kulawiak, a family physician at the Santa Rosa Community Health Centers' Southwest Clinic.

"One of the main tenets of positive parenting is spending time engaging in play, with no corrections. It's all about following the child's lead."

A host of social changes have conspired in the last generation to put children at risk for many health problems that come with obesity.

"When I was a kid, we played outside until the street lights went on. Now parents don't feel safe letting their kids do that," said Lorna Brown, 40. She opened My Gym 10 years ago when she found herself with a new baby and feeling stir-crazy, wondering what to do.

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