DENVER — The Wellbridge Co. is increasing its emphasis on youth activities by offering assistance for parents seeking safe and entertaining activities to keep kids active this summer and year-round.

Whether it's FitKids, Blast! Kids Centers, dance schools or sports camps; Wellbridge has developed fitness programs for children K-12.

“We've seen a renewed interest in family fitness given the obesity epidemic in America,” said Ed Williams, CEO, The Wellbridge Co. “We have a tremendous opportunity to encourage children to pay attention to their bodies, cultivate a positive body image and develop the love of fitness for a lifetime.”

Williams cites studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that have analyzed federal data showing that children's activity levels have declined by 13 percent in the last 20 years, while obesity levels in teens 12 to 19 years old has grown by a staggering 10 percent.

“It's important to keep in mind that children have special fitness needs as they are developing,” said Williams. “We create our child and teen fitness programs with these factors in mind.”

Some of the most popular programs include FitKids and MightyMites.

Wellbridge's FitKids, at Colorado Athletic Clubs and MightyMites, at New Mexico Sports and Wellness are classes where children ages three to five are encouraged to “move to the music.” An instructor leads the kids in jumping jacks, parachute play, Funky Hokey Pokey and jump rope games. They talk about the importance of muscle groups, while also getting the kids interested in moving and keeping their bodies active.

“Children at that age need a lot of stimulus, so one of our methods is exposure to many activities during a class,” commented Shelly Sturm-Mercer, director of children's programming at Colorado Athletic Club Inverness.

In Minneapolis as here, Wellbridge's Northwest Athletic Clubs make family exercise a daily norm by allowing parents to drop off their six- to 13-year-old children at a Blast! Extremely Kids Center. The parents can go about their workout routines knowing their kids are getting exercise using kid-friendly weight machines, running an obstacle course or perhaps playing a pick-up game of floor hockey. Blast! centers also offer school-release days; birthday parties and the option of letting parents drop their kids off for playtime, while they go out for a night on the town.

Many Wellbridge clubs across the country have also developed specialized sport-specific training programs for teens, the company says. One such Wellbridge trainer, Loren Landow, trains high school athletes during one-on-one and group personal training sessions and camps.

“Summer camp is not for kids anymore — teenagers wishing to make their school team or excel in a college sport train over the summer,” said Landow. “With specialized programs for teens, we show them how to train properly and safely for their age and abilities.”