Fit family: New library fitness classes will instill healthy habits for all

If you go

What: Family Fitness Boot Camp

Where: Estates Library, 1266 Golden Gate Blvd. W., Naples

When: Sept. 20, with two sessions, 4 to 4:30 p.m., and 4:30 to 5 p.m.

Details: Children age 7-12 are welcome with a parent. Wear comfortable clothes and sneakers. For more information, call (239) 455-8088 or visit

It’s a growing problem: Collier County kids aren’t just growing up, they’re growing out.

The Florida Department of Health revealed that 11 percent of Collier’s middle-school-aged children and 12 percent of our high-school-aged children are obese.

“In Collier County one in three children are overweight,” says Deb Millsap, director of nutrition and education and public information officer for Collier County’s Department of Health, citing data from the 2008 survey.

The same study concludes that, 28 percent of local middle school students and 40 percent of local high school students do not get adequate physical exercise daily.

Add to that a whopping 7½ hours spent in front of some sort of media screen each day, as reported in a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study, and it’s easy to see how obesity related illnesses in Collier County youth are on the rise.

“We’re failing our kids by creating this world of fast food, inactivity and intense screen time,” warns Millsap. “As adults we can help by setting boundaries.”

Combatting this problem was exactly the impetus behind a creating a new Family Fitness Boot Camp program at the Estates library. The free event, which will have parents and kids sweating it out in two 30-minute sessions, is designed to encourage kids and parents to get active together.

“We’ll do a little bit of everything,” says Anthony Vessecchia, owner of Body Crafters Inc., and leader of the boot camp sessions. “We’ll do a variety of bodyweight exercises which won’t harm children’s growth plates.”

Vissecchia, who currently conducts parent-children classes in his private gym studio off Davis Boulevard, maintains that a key part to getting kids into — and sticking to it — a fitness regimen is making the workouts fun.

“We’ll do some relay races to keep it fun. You’ll be surprised how many kids can run circles around their parents,” laughs the fitness guru, who could probably crack walnuts with his biceps.

As for what the boot camps will entail, Vessecchia adds, “I like to mix in plyometrics, dance, agility, calisthenics and core strength exercises to make it a fun, fast-paced workout.”

Local mom Kara Heaslip can’t say enough good things about Vissechia’s ability to make exercise enjoyable for kids. Heaslip has been bringing her 8-year-old daughter, budding tennis player Isabella Heaslip, to Body Crafters Inc., for the past year, and plans to bring her to the Family Fitness Boot Camp at the library.

“He’s great when it comes to working with kids,” says Heaslip. “He makes it fun, she (daughter Isabella) says, ’we’re going to go have fun with Mr. Tony.’ I don’t even think the kids realize they’re working out.”

And Heaslip is happy to workout alongside her daughter. “I’m pretty active myself, and so is my husband, I really think that helps. What kind of example would I be setting if I said ’you go to boot camp, I’m just going to sit here while you work out.’”

When asked why, as a local business owner, Vissecchia is willing to offer his services gratis at the free community event, he answers without even a hint of hesitation:

“It’s so important for us to bring awareness to the community, and to bring awareness to parents. Fitness has to come from parents, if a parent has bad habits, the kids are going to develop those same habits.”

Which is why he likes the integrated parent-child boot camp formula so much. It serves as more than just a workout for both parties; it’s also an opportunity to teach parents habits they will hopefully pass on to their kids.

“It’s like having a bad boss,” Vissecchia explains, “if your boss shows up late every day, soon all the workers are showing up late every day too.”

And just like the library is open to all levels of readers, Vissecchia stresses that next week’s class is open to all levels of fitness. On hand will be both an instructor leading the class and an instructor helping to make sure the exercises are executed properly and offering modifications to make the movements harder or easier.

He stresses that, “it doesn’t matter how big they are, we can modify exercises for anyone.”

© 2011 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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