For a generation of American children more likely to tap a video game controller than bounce a ball, problems of obesity should be no surprise. And with obesity already a growing problem for their parents, kids today need all the active role models they can get.
"With childhood obesity at an all-time high, we need to come together and really get people—especially kids—to be active," says Handles Franklin, one of the stars of the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters. "Something so simple as going out to play is so important for kids today."
While the Globetrotters are known all over the world for their basketball-handling wizardry and on-court entertainment, they're also making a name for themselves as exercise evangelists for children. In addition to the hundreds of games they play each year, they also make time to work with kids in schools to show them that fitness can be fun and rewarding. Wherever their shows take them, they visit schools and promote activities that get the children moving.
In 2008, the Globetrotters launched a program called S.P.I.N.—Some Playtime Is Necessary—a program designed to make fitness fun for kids, while promoting and encouraging an active lifestyle. To date, they have worked with thousands of children and adults to make exercise and healthy eating a lifetime goal.
"The children we work with love to exercise with us," says Franklin. "They see that it's fun, and they feel better about themselves. They also see that we just don't tell them to eat healthy foods and to exercise, we do it ourselves."
Franklin says that he grew up playing outside every day, and his parents encouraged that. "And that has changed nowadays," he adds. "Kids are so engaged with video games and other activities that don't get them outside to play."
The Globetrotters not only want kids to have fun, they want to be role models to show that healthy exercise will make a difference in life no matter what you do, notes Franklin.
To find out more about the S.P.I.N. program, visit www.harlemglobetrotters.com. The Web site also has a link to the President's Challenge, through which children can earn an Active Lifestyle Patch by maintaining a goal of one hour of daily activity. A personal activity log helps kids track their progress and achieve the award.