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Fitness University makes Nashua home for summer

Union Leader Correspondent

May 26. 2012 12:05AM

NASHUA - A popular children's running program that is outgrowing many of its venues throughout southern New Hampshire has decided to make Nashua home to its summer fitness clinics.

Last summer, Fitness University attracted 1,200 kids throughout its eight-week program, with an average of 350 children for each weekly class held at various fields in Nashua and surrounding communities.

'We already have 650 kids signed up for this summer, so we decided to hold the clinics in one large location this time. It will be easier for parents,' said Leann Ward, Fitness University director.

The free running clinics for children ages 3 to 14 will be held all summer at Nashua High School South, according to Ward, who said the program is thrilled to have such a large track and field venue for the fitness program.

'Our program has grown tremendously. In 2005 we were averaging about 50 kids per clinic, but last year we had about 350,' explained Ward. 'We have a lot of kids coming back each year because they had so much fun the year prior.'

Fitness University was founded in 1989 by the Nashua Gate City Striders running club, with a goal of promoting free fun, fitness and good health for children. Children of all abilities are welcome, and the lessons learned at Fitness University help youth develop good healthy habits for life, according to Ward.

'Keeping active in the summer is very important, especially because of the high obesity rate in this country. We tend to focus on exercises that are fun, so this is not a chore for them,' she explained.

The running clinics are held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, beginning next week and continuing through July 17. A Finals Day celebration will be held on July 21.

Children are encouraged to attend all eight running clinics, but organizers understand if they are not able to participate in all of them. Following a joint stretching and warm-up period, participants are divided into eight different age categories, with various activities appropriate for each level.

The 3- and 4-year-old groups will be dismissed at 7 p.m. and will be introduced to different running games, relays and activities. Older children will have the opportunity to run relays on the track, play dodgeball and other, more sophisticated fitness games.

During the Finals Day, children will showcase their accomplishments for parents and friends, said Ward, adding special guest speakers will be in attendance for the festivities.

In 2007, Fitness University received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the New Hampshire Governor's Council on Physical Activity and Health. Along with the governor, Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Mayor Donnalee Lozeau have previously applauded the group's efforts in the fight against childhood obesity.

For more information about the program, visit Registration is available online, but participants are also welcome to register in person at any Tuesday clinic.

Southern New Hampshire Medical Center has been the corporate sponsor for the program, allowing it to be free for hundreds of children each summer. However, Ward said Fitness University is seeking a new corporate sponsor for next year. Any businesses who may be interested can email her directly at

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