Wellness

Turn Screen-Time in to Ninja-Time

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Kids ages eight and up spend more than seven and a half hours glued to a screen each day on average, eclipsing a normal workday or the drive time from Gainesville to New Orleans. Luckily, a promising new sport has emerged to combat the digital draw and bring fantasy to the gym.

Ninja Zone teaches dynamic Ninja moves to kids in a video-game-like atmosphere. Each class begins with a massive obstacle course and maintains the intensity with 80-percent continuous movement throughout the session.

Now the fastest growing boys’ gym sport, Ninja Zone opened its doors at Sun Country Sports Center for children ages three to 11 this February. Instructors combine skills from four traditional disciplines, instilling coordination from gymnastics, discipline from martial arts, strength and agility from obstacle course training and creativity from street dance.

Trainer Nick Cusi jump-starts kids’ imagination from the onset with the first obstacle course. Slanted pads and improvised gymnastics equipment create a faux-urban landscape for the Ninjas to traverse. Then, their imagination constructs the rest.

“You’re running across a building today,” Nick tells the kids. “You’re leaping through a jungle. You’re chasing a bad guy.”

Building a mental arena helps kids focus and find inner-motivation, an increasingly difficult task in the digital age, Nick said.

“With video games, technology and the internet playing such a major role in kids’ lives today it’s definitely important to take aspects of that and translate it in a way that we can keep them engaged,” he said.

In video games, kids idolize and role-play fictional characters. They advance in the game when their avatar gains skills and wins battles.

In Ninja classes, students become the characters of their own course. Leveling up grants them a prized color-ranked headband and new moves to tackle. Hours in the gym, away from the TV, teach them core values to embrace life’s obstacles with focus and clarity.

“These skills teach people how to encounter what they’re seeing every day in a way that, if they trip and fall, they can catch themselves and roll over their shoulder instead of landing on their face and hurting themselves,” he said.

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