Tampa Bay Times
November 2012

Tampa Bay Times November 2012 LARGO — Ana Ramirez let out a groan after each situp on the incline bench. Her 14-year-old daughter, Audrey, refused to let her give up. "Come on, mom. You’re almost there.” "Ohhh,” groaned Ana. "Twenty-one, 22 … almost there,” said Audrey. When her mother completed 30 situps, Audrey held up her right hand. "Okay, high-five. You’re done,” the teen said. The women were spending Thursday afternoon at the Fit Zone, the city’s new outdoor workout area in Largo Central Park. They moved among 10 pieces of equipment that are much like you would see in a traditional gym — contraptions like an elliptical, an air walker and a chest press. While the mother and daughter worked out, Luis Ramirez was on the playground keeping an eye on kindergartener Julian. For years, Ana and Luis have taken turns at playground duty while making sure each gets a crack at some aerobic exercise on the park’s trail. "With this new equipment, now we can work on our muscles, too. It’s like we have our own outdoor gym,” said Ana. Joan Byrne, the director of Largo’s Recreation, Parks and Arts department, has a mantra: "A healthy community is found through physical activity.” But because of long-term budget constraints, creating new programs is a slow, challenging endeavor. So when she heard of a Pinellas County Health Department grant offering a chance to purchase $46,000 worth of outdoor fitness equipment, she grabbed it. The city, which will install a second … Read More

Fit Kids Camp Keeps Youngsters Active
July 6, 2012

Fit Kids Camp Keeps Youngsters Active 7/6/2012 Summer camps are commonly a place for kids to unwind with their friends while participating in fun group activities. However, for the 12 children who attend the Largo Fit Kids Camp in Tampa Bay, Florida, camp is all about breaking a sweat. The Tampa Bay Times reports the kids who attend this camp spend their days running drills on the athletic field of the Southwest Recreation Complex. The exercises included everything from speed ladder exercises to jumping hurdles as well as cross training workouts and swimming. The two-week long camp is an extension of the 15-month-old Fit Kids afterschool program started in the area in an attempt to help teach area youngsters how to work out and stay healthy. Currently, 33.1 percent of children aged 10 to 17 in Florida are overweight or obese, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. This places the state higher than Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine, among others. Brandon McIntosh, a Largo recreation program leader, reports the program is meant to "increase the overall health and fitness level of children in a fun, positive and motivating environment." For Noah, a 12-year-old in the program, the results have been significant. Noah started the program back in March and went from weighing 138 pounds, to a healthy 119 pounds. Staying fit is something that is important to the 12 year old, as he knows what it was like to be unable to play with friends or try out … Read More

Tampa Bay Times
July 2012

Tampa Bay Times July 2012 Largo tackles fitness, obesity problems through children’s programs LARGO — Some kids might have been spending the morning eating Pop-Tarts and playing their PlayStation 3, but not Noah Aktas. By 8:30 a.m. Friday morning, Noah, along with 12 other summer campers, was running drills on the athletic field at Southwest Recreation Complex. He walked sideways through the speed ladder. He hopped over hurdles. He did everything but hold still. Keeping kids active was one of the goals of Largo’s just-ended Fit Kids Camp, a two-week offshoot of an after-school Fit Kids program started about 15 months ago. Readmore… Under the direction of Brandon McIntosh, a Largo recreation program leader, Fit Kids is designed to increase the overall health and fitness level of children in a fun, positive and motivating environment. The summer campers, ages 6 through 15, came in all shapes and sizes. They received lessons in nutrition as well as daily workouts including agility drills, cross training, full-body workouts using free weights and swimming. Noah, 12, participated in McIntosh’s first after-school program. In March 2011, Noah weighed 138 pounds. Now he weighs 119 pounds. "I’m here in the camp because I want to maintain my fitness level,” Noah said. "I remember when I first started working out with Brandon. It was hard to do any sports, hard to do anything. I was really overweight,” Noah said. "But then after a few months, people started telling me how I looked different. It’s given me confidence … Read More

Tampa Bay Times
May 2011

Tampa Bay Times May 2011 LARGO — Fast food, video games, television and Facebook. Parents pressed for time, juggling work in a tough economy, and in many cases struggling with sheer exhaustion. Welcome to family life in 2011. Brandon McIntosh, a Largo recreation program supervisor and certified personal trainer, has seen both sides — inactive youth uninspired to get in shape and frustrated parents concerned with their child’s health. With the official launch of Fit Kids, he’s aiming to help those families in need. McIntosh, 30, is well aware of the statistics: About 17 percent of children and adolescents 2 to 19 in the United States are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. That’s 12.5 million children. "In the last couple years, as I worked with our (after school) program, I saw a lot of kids who were overweight feeling picked on because of their weight, and I wondered, if they feel like this in my rec center, what must it be like for them in school? I felt bad,” McIntosh said. Every Monday since March, he has led a one-hour fitness class with up to 20 kids, ages 9 to 15. As music is pumped into the classroom next to the gym, he combines a nutrition lesson, aerobics and training on exercise equipment. He also moves the class outside, holding part of the workout in the fresh air. McIntosh is quick to point out that Fit Kids is made up of typical youngsters. Yes, … Read More