CrossFit Now Offers Classes For Kids As Young As Three -- But Why?

The hardcore workout venue is now offering classes for children. Some experts say it helps fight obesity and promotes healthy habits, but others think it's ridiculous.
Publish date:
October 1, 2013
kids, childhood, exercise, obesity panic, exercising, gyms, obesity, crossfit

For the toddler who has everything (um, except a buff, toned bod?), introducing … CrossFit Kids! I only wish I were kidding. No, seriously, I WISH I WERE KIDDING, like, so much, because this story just makes me feel so hollow and despondent inside. But that's probably my own sh*t, so whatever; ignore me. Anyway, CrossFit Gantry in NYC's Long Island City (Crossfit being that crazy-extreme-mega-whoa exercise program that features intense routines like flipping tires, swinging kettlebells, and a superfluous amount of squats) is courting controversy by offering classes for kids as young as 3 years old. The classes last 45 minutes and incorporate traditional CF fare like overhead presses, lunges, and squats. (Thankfully no weights are used, because they clearly have SOME standards, OK?) Though plenty of parents are freaked out and pissed off by the existence of said classes, CrossFit Gantry's website promises that its kiddie classes offer serious benefits for the health and well-being of growing tots. The site claims their classes help kids build community and foster teamwork, as well as increasing "physical competence…promoting self esteem and cultivating leadership skills; develop critical thinking and memory."Instructor Michele Kelber told DNAInfo that kids "love" the classes. "[The] youngsters are often drawn to CrossFit because they want to work out the same way as mom or dad," she explained.

Other health experts have also applauded the program for its anti-obesity efforts (one in three U.S. kids is overweight, according to the latest stats) and its potential to help kids get "in shape" (?!) and "develop core strength" (?!?!?). Talking to NPR, Dr. Jordan Metzl, a sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, said CF Kids makes young peoples' muscles "a lot stronger, and it is very helpful for them."

Of course, the regimen also helps rapidly growing toddlers and their proud parents learn about the critical -- but surprisingly delicate! -- art of spending lots of money. The classes cost $140 a month if taken once a week, or $280 a month for twice a week.Predictably, parents seem divided about the message the classes are sending to children. One Gawker commenter aptly summarized what I (and possibly everyone else who's read about this bizarro scheme) am thinking: "Just take the kids to the playground, people."Lisa Fogarty of The Stir also questions the usefulness of the classes, writing, "Simply allowing [kids] to run around like maniacs in the grass, throw and catch balls...seems far healthier to me than bringing them to a CrossFit and introducing them to the no pain, no gain mentality of adult workouts." Commenters didn't necessarily agree with her, though. "Ann" wrote, "I think this is an awesome idea. i see it as the same as karate, gymnastics, or ballet: a venue for kids to be active and experience a structured class environment." And another commenter noted, "I see no problem with exercise classes aimed at children... so long as the message that CHILDREN DO NOT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THEIR WEIGHT is made abundantly clear."

I'm not a parent, but I just don't fully get the point here. Of course physical activity is important, and there's something to be said for helping kids get in the habit of exercising early. But do they really need to hit a hardcore adult gym to do that? There are so many sports, games and fun outdoor activities kids have access to at that age; why not encourage them to try play-based exercise instead of learning the art of the perfect squat?

When I was a kid, I faintly remember preferring tap-dancing and gymnastics to lunges, thanks. (OK, so I don't think I actually tried lunges back then, probably because it was the '80s and the kookiest extent of childhood fitness pressure was "Get In Shape, Girl.") That said, there's probably/hopefully no real harm in these classes if they're conducted properly -- i.e., with a heavy emphasis on fun and health (not weight loss, plz). So I guess interested parents can just go ahead and shell out their hard-won bucks for their tots to keep squatting to their hearts' delight.

What do you guys think about the idea of gym workouts for toddlers? Would you ever send your kid to CrossFit?

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