Web Exclusive - June 2012
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Camp Trends

A Look at Trends in Camps, Campgrounds & RV Parks

By Emily Tipping

Camps + Fitness = Fun

With more than 23 million children overweight and more than 12 million considered obese, it should come as no surprise that more camps are looking to add fitness programming to their lineup of ways to entertain and educate their young charges.

Last summer, Sesame/Rockwood Camps, located in Blue Bell, Pa., launched their own initiative to help children get active.

"Camps are or should be addressing the growing reality of childhood obesity, because camps are the ideal venue for such awareness," said Howard Batterman, owner and director of Sesame/Rockwood Camps and Diamond Ridge Camps. "What could be better than being out of doors, away from technology, being with friends, playing sports, swimming laps, hiking, being on the move from one activity to the next, zip lining through the woods, paddling a boat—and above all, eating properly without the distractions of a television, cell phone or computer," he asked.

In addition to the expected daily physical activity that comes with being in a camp setting, Sesame/Rockwood Camps devotes every Monday morning of its eight-week summer program to a camp-wide exercise platform called FitMondays. More than 600 campers and 250 staff gather on Monday mornings to participate in a unique and new group exercise class each week, such as yoga, jumping rope, Zumba, Fitness Frenzy, martial arts, Dancersise, Funastics and more.

"Sesame/Rockwod Camps' FitMondays are a way of welcoming back all of our campers and staff on a Monday morning with performances by exercise experts," Batterman explained. "We get the crowd up and moving with top trainers who instruct a different type of exercise each week in hopes to expose the children to at least one new exercise they love and will want to continue throughout the school year."

Batterman has seen that campers learn from one another and are encouraged by others' actions.

"FitMondays is just plain fun and silly…just being a kid," Batterman said. "From our littlest guys of 3 and 4 years old to the big league CITs (counselors in training), everyone just does it while watching everyone else. Because the campers see their staff 'idols' having so much fun, why not just join in."

Batterman said that while outcomes are difficult to measure, they did find that the campers like to do short bursts of activity, then move on to the next thing. "I call it the 'remote generation,'" he said. "Campers want to gather many experiences—just like changing the channel on a television. So we limit the exercise to between 10 to 12 minutes—then they are off to their scheduled activities of the day."

Children, Batterman added, are like sponges, so his best advice to other camp directors is to just do it. Children can absorb so much, if you offer them an activity, they'll do it.

"Our campers are our future staff…our future leaders…our future parents," Batterman concluded. "Getting them to enjoy the camp culture and experience, whether at a day camp or a sleepover camp or at a travel-and-adventure camp, whether for a week or even two months—the summertime is the ideal time to grow, to become independent and to learn to make good choices. Along with a positive school atmosphere, our children will grow into loving and caring individuals and citizens—and fit to take on the challenges of life."