FORT LEE, Va. (April 14, 2021) – The prevalence of obesity in the U.S. is not confined to adults. In a nationwide study completed in 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified a 19 percent obesity rate among ages 2-19.
If asked, Jordan M. Fields would likely cite the explosive popularity of video games and the frequency of fast food consumption as contributing factors. That is not his shtick, however. He is more apt to skip over the causations and dive right into finding solutions. That attitude has been the impetus for his job as the Fort Lee Child and Youth Services functional fitness specialist.
“If kids learn to love sports and fitness, they’re more likely to continue doing so as they get older,” said the former military family member. “That will keep them from spending too much time in front of that video screen and in the house on the couch.”
Fields, a six-year Youth Center employee, officially kicked off the functional fitness program in January. He has been building it since early last year.
“My job is to eventually provide fitness instruction for all CYS youths; more so the school-agers up to the teens,” Fields said. “As of right now, though, I’ve been working with the CDC kids.”
Evolving CYS policy, he further noted, will dictate how broad of participation is permissible.
The 28-year-old is heading three fitness classes a week for 3-11-year-olds at the various child care facilities here on a rotational basis. Each class runs roughly an hour and consist of drills, exercises and games designed to support the aerobic and strength needs of children.
Fields is pulling from a playbook of instructional plans he first developed for teens. “I had a bunch of ladder drills and balancing exercises – things like that,” he said. “It wasn’t really appropriate for 3-year-olds, so I made it simple for the young ones, and to my surprise, they love it.”
The combination of experience; supervisor and parent input, and valued feedback from the kids themselves – along with his own his creativity – has resulted in regular injections of variety into his sessions.
“I had little girl who was interested in tumbling, so I brought a mat out for her and all of the kids ended up wanting to do the same,” he offered as an example of ways he has kept the attention of youths. “I’m constantly researching new drills and creating new programs to push out to the kids. I want to be able to give them something new every time I’m with them.”
So far, the program has been met with enthusiasm by the children and CDC staff, said a facility leader. “It’s a great program, and the children love it,” said Christine Weaver, Yorktown CDC assistant director. “The teachers love having that extra ‘thing’ to look forward to during the week,”
The fitness classes also can be geared for sports participation, Fields said. He expressed excitement about the upcoming CYS soccer league and the opportunity to help participants prepare.
“Just to help the 3-to-4 year olds get the fundamentals (nailed) down so when they sign up for teams, they’ll know what there’re doing,” he said.
CYS officials noted the youth soccer league is tentative like many events during the pandemic, which are subject to postponement or cancellation. In the future – again if the pandemic eases – Fields’ functional fitness programs will expand to the Youth Center.
“My CDC classes will still occur in the mornings, and hopefully, when the teen center opens back up, I’ll hold classes in the afternoon for them. The programs there will be an everyday offering.”
Ultimately, Fields said he wants to generate buzz about the program by delivering a positive experience to participants – one they choose to share with others.
“I want to build up our functional fitness program and hope to make it something the youth here at Fort Lee look forward to attending,” he said. “I want to create a positive and fun experience for children and teens so they look at fitness and physical activity as something they enjoy doing.”