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For most community rec centers, engaging youth in fitness is a top priority. This ensures that from a young age, children are instilled with healthy values and habits that will hopefully last a lifetime.

However, children must be introduced to fitness in a safe and healthy manner. With this in mind, The Y In Central Maryland created two unique programs designed to teach kids of different age groups how to use fitness equipment safely and effectively.

The first is the Kids Cardio program, which is designed to provide an orientation for youth ages 8 to 12 to safely learn how to use cardio equipment. “It provides them with info and a quiz,” said Kelly Lepley, the executive director of fitness. “Once completed, they can use the cardio equipment while supervised by a parent.”

The second program is the Teen Quest program, designed to provide an orientation for youth ages 13 to 15 to safely learn how to use selectorized strength equipment. “It provides them with info and a quiz, of which when completed they are given privileges to use the fitness center equipment without direct supervision of their parent, thus instilling responsibility,” explained Lepley.

According to Lepley, the programs have been received well by both kids and parents, as they instill a sense of privilege and independence in kids who graduate from the programs.

“Kids feel a sense of ownership and privilege to have the freedom to use equipment independently,” said Lepley. “Parents appreciate that their child is being taught how to use equipment safely and able to use it independently.”

For community rec centers interested in launching a similar program, Lepley gave the following advice. “Know the safety requirements around your equipment and with your insurance company,” she said. “The equipment that is part of the lessons and introduced is based on height requirements of the equipment manufacturers, so we are staying within limits of liability as the foundation of the program.”

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