Kids need exercise, but what kind?

Haley Moran-Wollens is not an elite athlete. She is a 13-year-old who, like lots of other teenagers, wants to be fit. And, like a growing number of teenagers whose parents can afford it, she has a personal trainer. In her case, the trainer is Rodica Vranceanu, who charges $75 an hour for after-school workouts at Radu Physical Culture, a gym in Midtown Manhattan. "I don't want to be the skinniest," Haley said. "I just want to work out. But a lot of people do it for the nice bodies, even at my age." Though personal training is by no means the norm for American children, a small but growing number of their parents are paying the membership fees to private gyms for aerobics, weight lifting, and body-molding activities once considered for adults only. At the Spectrum Club in Valencia California, children aged 13 to 17 can become Teen Fit members. They tend to go for the stationary bicycles and weights, said Cindy Breakfield, sports manager, who added that personal trainers were available for the younger set. The Eastcoast Athletic Club in Port Washington, N.Y., has a program called Excel, which offers personal training at $45 an hour to children aged 12 to 17, said Christopher Patti, the fitness director. Some health experts hail the trend, saying that too many children do not get enough exercise. But others disagree. "It's a sad precedent," said Richard Killingsworth, a scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. "We are teaching behavior that it's O.K. to be sedentary all day except for the one-hour exercise class. In the past decade, our children have lost the idea of what it is to enjoy being young and physically active."

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