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Fathers and Sons and ... Fitness

June 25, 2009 By:
David C. Friedman, Jewish Exponent Feature
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At age 40, Dan Klein is an avid triathlete. Although his two boys, Ryan, 6, and Cole, 3, are still too young to begin training for such competitions, the Main Line chiropractor said that they are already expressing an interest in the sport.

Scott Aaron, 30, believes that his love of fitness stems from his father's long-term love of keeping physically fit.

A Father's Day phenomenon? No -- an everyday standard that makes Father's Day a year-round relationship. It's part of an increasing desire by dads to teach their children by example the benefits of staying physically fit.

"The health message in our family is extremely important, and the sooner my children learn the importance of being healthy, the better equipped they will be to make the proper choices when they get older," said Klein.

He explained that Ryan is already playing soccer. Because of him, Cole has also taken an interest in soccer, added Klein.

"They are interested whenever I compete in the triathlon, and they always ask if I won," he said.

According to Beth Segal, health and recreation director at the Kaiserman Jewish Community Center, where Klein belongs, "I see more and more dads coming in to work out with their kids."

They are motivated by two things, Segal pointed out: "First, there is an increasing desire among fathers to stay physically fit so that they may grow old in good health. The second is to provide a better physical lifestyle for their children."

Nicole Pressman, the Kaiserman JCC fitness director, echoed Segal, saying that she has seen many fathers coming to the center to work.

"There has been a lot of media attention lately on childhood obesity, and both parents are starting to realize the importance of working out at a younger age," she said.

The family that works out together ... "When they started to bring their children, I was amazed by how many fathers there were," she added.

Segal has also noted an increase in fathers arranging their workout schedules in order to be in the gym when their child is involved in an after-school program or activity.

"Lifestyles are changing," said Segal, "and more and more families are coming here together. They are in the pool together and are in the fitness center during the hours that children are permitted."

For Aaron, physical fitness has been a father-son activity for many years. Now, he and his father, Howard, 57, run East Falls Fitness, a family-owned fitness center.

"We have noticed an increase in men who are interested in losing weight," said the son. "Often, when a woman becomes pregnant, the man gains what is called sympathy weight. Men come to our fitness center after the baby is born to try and regain their shape."

But that's much later in life. Many men are focusing on what it means to present healthy lifestyle choices to small children.

"When I was young, my father never forced me to do anything I did not want to do," said the younger Aaron. "He wanted me to get involved in social sports, such as township baseball and soccer, where I would be interacting with my friends and kids my age, and at the same time live a fit life."

Stressing the Importance of It

The elder Aaron noted that he used to take Scott to the gym when he was younger to impress upon him the importance of physical fitness.

"He had a real interest in sports, as most boys do," said Howard. "I got him into the gym when he was 13, just to give him a sense of what a fitness center was. He was curious about it, but was not particularly interested in a gym or weights until he realized how thin he was. And it was then that he started to think about it."

His son added that he did not believe age should become a limiting factor in a father's athletic relationship with a son -- or daughter, of course.

"If a father is willing to eat right, stay in shape and lead as clean a life as possible, the benefits are overwhelming," he said. "The father is not just the parent of the child who is playing ball, but becomes another player -- and it is a facet of the father and child relationship that only a handful of fathers get to experience."

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