Fitness Clinic Integrates Fun and Health for Results for Children

Girl swimmingFor some children, an afternoon of playing the video game Dance Dance Revolution is simply a fun recreational activity. For patients at UW Hospital and Clinics' Pediatric Fitness Clinic, bouncing around to the game's lively music is not only an entertaining way to exercise but also a gateway to a healthier and more active lifestyle.


With childhood obesity rates skyrocketing in the United States today, health experts agree it's time to take action to improve our children's health.


"Nearly one in five children are obese or overweight," said Paul Montague, Director of the Pediatric Fitness Initiative. "It's important for children to learn healthy diet and exercise habits when they're young so they can carry those behaviors into adulthood."


For over six years, the Pediatric Fitness Clinic has given children and their parents the opportunity to work with pediatric physicians, exercise physiologists and nutritionists to make sustainable lifestyle and fitness changes.


Whether running on a treadmill, playing interactive video games like Dance Dance Revolution or biking on a virtual course, the clinic staff works to integrate fun physical activity into children's everyday lives. Patients and parents also receive nutritional counseling to learn appropriate portion sizes and healthy diet choices.


The Pediatric Fitness Clinic also works with other community organizations to spread the word about pediatric health. Members of the clinic staff serve on the Activate America Coalition Task Force, which advises several YMCA of Dane County programs, and work with 12 different community centers on fitness and nutrition programming. The Clinic also takes Dance Dance Revolution to community events to show children that physical activity and fitness can be fun.


Many patients are referred to the clinic by their pediatrician or family physician, while some hear about the clinic by word of mouth from their physical education teachers, parents or television. The clinic provides charity care to a significant portion of its patients.


With nearly 300 new patients per year, UW Hospital and Clinics' Pediatric Fitness Center continues to thrive, as does the health of the children who attend. Patients who attended the clinic for one year lost an average of 4.2 percent body fat and saw an 11.3 percent increase in lean muscle mass. Efforts are currently underway to construct a new Center for Youth Fitness, a $1.7 million addition to expand the current clinic and serve the growing number of patients.