CrossFit Affiliates Become Community Lifeboats to Combat Childhood Obesity

Jul 21, 2019 by

Every summer, parents put their ears to the ground looking for programs to keep their kids busy: Sleepover camp, YMCA, VBS, science camp, junior lifeguards, play dates with neighborhood families. 

Now, we can also add CrossFit Summer Camp to the list. And a few are adding key nutritional education as well to combat a nutritional and fitness deficit being offered to young kids. 

Since 1970, the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled. In 2016, one out of every five children was obese. And today, across the nation recess is becoming a thing of the past coupled with fast, processed food and sugar-stocked vending machines are only contributing to the problem. 

Greg Glassman said, “You thought it was about the fitness, it’s really not. Each box, each gym, is a lifeboat in what is a tsunami of chronic disease.” That’s not just for adult athletes, it’s for kids too. 

As of August, 2018 there were 3,500 CrossFit Kids registered programs at affiliates and more than 1,200 CrossFit programs in schools. Who better to meet the needs of the kids in their community than CrossFit affiliates?

How to be a community lifeboat.

There are several programs up and running that are getting kids into boxes for CrossFit, teaching them about nutrition, and preparing them to make positive change, on their own, once they go home.

Freakin’ CrossFit in Pembroke Pines, FL: Freakin’ CrossFit started to hold summer camps for their CrossFit Kids. For two weeks, kids ages five to eleven come in for a day of fun, fitness and education on things like sugar in their drinks, anatomy and physiology, and the importance of sleep or getting outside. 

  • In a recent article, Faith Kuhn, director of the summer program at Freakin CrossFit, shared “Last year, the large project taught kids about added sugar in products like Gatorade, juice boxes and even Starbucks drinks. She explained one of her seven-year-old campers came to her after the project and said, ‘Miss Faith, do I have to take this home?’ Telling him yes, he replied, ‘You’re going to ruin my life.’ It made the kids, and their parents, think about what they were drinking.”

CrossFit Florian in Norwood, MA: Tia Sapienza, coach of the CrossFit Florian Teen Girls Program in Norwood, MA also runs a program during the summer. They’ve got 50 pre-teens ages 10-12 and 75 teen girls coming into the gym all week for CrossFit, weightlifting and speed and agility training.

  • But they also host nutrition nights during the summer. “We’re choosing to incorporate nutrition to emphasize the importance of fueling their bodies for performance….Trying to teach them to choose the right foods and that protein is important for muscle building and repair,” Sapienza told us.
  • One of the ways she does that is have the girls keep anonymous five-day food journals to get an honest assessment of what they were eating without judgment. On nutrition night, Sapienza and a dietician give a short presentation before the girls play a round of Kahoot! based on what they just learned, and then they make a recipe together, like yogurt parfaits and overnight protein oats. “We chose teaching them how to make breakfast options because that’s the meal they skip the most when they are either running to class or sports or school,” Sapienza said. 

The Keala Foundation: The Keala Foundation, which prides itself on meeting the needs of children in the community by picking them up in shuttles, giving them one free hour of CrossFit, feeding them a meal, and then returning them home also runs their program through the summer.

  • The heart of Keala is to lower the barrier of entry as far as possible. By providing free transportation, they can get them from school, take them to the gym, feed them, and then drive them home, every day. 

While Freakin’ CrossFit, CrossFit Florian, and Keala Foundation all serve their local communities, there are also programs like Steve’s Club that run summer programs across the country. 

Steve’s Club National Program: “Steve’s Club National Program focuses exclusively on providing access to CrossFit for at-risk and underserved youth from across the country. Summer Leadership Camp is a vehicle for Steve’s Club National Program to dramatically increase our impact on the most promising of our local athletes, giving them an opportunity to come together with their peers to experience all aspects of the Steve’s Club mission: fitness, nutrition, mentorship, and personal development,” they told Morning Chalk Up in an email.

Why it Matters: While everyone knows that getting kids to move more is important, it is also important to teach them to make their own informed decisions about food. When they return to school in the fall, they will be better equipped to choose water over soda, chicken over pizza, and actual fruit over fruit snacks. If we can teach them how to make their own informed nutritional choices, and their own meals, that’s a win for parents and guardians everywhere. 


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