EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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April 26, 2008

A tale of two health clubs trends: Fitness for kids, high-tech workouts

Latitude Sports Clubs of Methuen has a new program designed to nip childhood obesity in the bud.

The fitness center at 116 Pleasant Valley St. caters to more than 6,000 members. Last month it launched a Kids Fit program designed for children ages 18 months to 13.

Curves for Women in North Andover, meanwhile, recently joined the high-tech age of fitness training.

Its owners bought a new computer system called CurvesSmart that offers its 350 members a computerized, precision-designed workout when they train at 110 Sutton St. in North Andover.

These are among the newest in fitness trends at local health clubs, a competitive and growing business.

"Childhood obesity and childhood diabetes are rising, and we'd like to do our part to help stop that," said Elena Scuderi of Salem, N.H., who is general manager at Latitude Sports Clubs of Methuen.

"It's great for the parents. They can bring in their kids to work out the same time they're working out," said Scuderi, who's been involved in the fitness field for about 15 years.

At the beginning of the year, Latitude lowered its monthly rate for youth membership to about half the rate charged to adult members. It also began offering discounted memberships for people in the 14- to 18-year-old range, reaching out to high school and college students.

"We started the Kids Fit program in March," Scuderi said. "The big trend is family atmosphere, so we have a youth membership for 14 and up, and now we have a kids fit program 18 months to 13 years old. We offer different sessions for different ages," she said.

A special trainer works with classes of six to 10 children at a time.

While health clubs have traditionally courted individual members to work out on their own schedules and at their own pace, Latitude — formerly Golds Gym — is concentrating more on group programs, with the idea that people who are out of shape and need to drop the weight might be more inclined to do so if they're joined by others who are battling the bulge.

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