The Y's new family group exercise program disguises exercise as fun

Feb. 21, 2014

The YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee has launched Recess Lab®, an innovative family group exercise program that disguises exercise as fun and is aimed at decreasing childhood obesity.

Recess Lab® is a one-of-a-kind, pre-choreographed group fitness program for parents and their children ages 6-12, offered exclusively in the area by the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee. It’s offered through a license agreement with Palo Alto, California-based Xercise Lab, LLC, an international group fitness program developer that provides specialized activities, original music and instructor training and certification.

The program is designed as pre-planned play and games and eliminates the sometimes tight structured parameters of group exercise programming. Over the course of a six week-session, families participate in 45-minute classes that provide a fun, intense combination of cardiovascular and strength training, disguised as movements and games choreographed to music. To keeps things fresh, each week the instructor teaches a new routine set to new music. This creates an atmosphere where even the most uncoordinated child or adult can feel successful, receive exercise-related benefits and have a positive experience.

Recess Lab® is offered at the following five YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee Centers starting February 24 and registration is open now: Rite-Hite, South Shore, Southwest, Tri-County and West Suburban. A six-week session, with two to three Recess Lab® classes per week, is $25 for Y members and $40 for community participants. Costs cover the entire family. Schedules and registration information are available at

“Recess Lab® is, of course a fun and different way for families to spend time together and a great way for parents to model healthy behavior,” said Donna Bembenek, senior vice president at the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee. “But, more importantly, it helps address the growing epidemic of obesity and chronic disease among adults and children in our community. At the Y, we feel it’s part of our responsibility to help this and the next generation grow up to be strong and healthy adults.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in Wisconsin, 63 percent of adults, 14 percent of adolescents and 17 percent of children ages 2 to 5 are either overweight or obese. The CDC Wisconsin profile also shows that among adolescents, only 24 percent achieve the recommended level of activity, and 23 percent watched television 3 or more hours per day on an average school day. The 2012 Wisconsin Diabetes Surveillance Report shows that more than 475,000 adults and 4,500 children are affected by diabetes in Wisconsin and approximately 241,000 people have pre-diabetes in Milwaukee County alone, putting them at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, stroke and other conditions.

“Over the last few weeks, the Y offered Recess Lab® on a trial basis to some of our members and the response was overwhelming,” said Lonnie Watts, product executive-group exercise at the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee. “It’s been so amazing to see families laughing, smiling, sweaty and enjoying the love of fitness together. The demos have been full of parents and children that appreciate the opportunity to work out and play, not only with each other, but the other families in the room as well. This is the perfect program for a family-driven, mission-focused organization, like the Y.

Recess Lab® is one of eight programs developed and offered by Xercise Lab® and found at more than 2o clubs and fitness studios across the world. Since the company's founding in 2012, thousands of people have benefitted from its programs, and have shown a significant decrease in overall body fat, a drop in blood pressure, and a drop in resting and recovery heart rate and an increase in overall strength, stamina and endurance."

About the Y: The YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee is a powerful association of men, women and children of all ages and from all walks of life joined together by a shared passion to strengthen the foundations of community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Since 1858, Milwaukee YMCAs have helped kids and families live healthy lives in spirit, mind and body. Supported in part through contributions to the Annual Campaign, the Y provides membership assistance and scholarships to programs like summer camp, child care and teen activities, to make sure that everyone, regardless of age, income or background, has the opportunity to be healthy, confident, connected and secure.

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