Mr. CardioTone aims to fight childhood obesity

He doesn’t wear a cape or defy science, but he still has the power to change your future.

His name is Mr. CardioTone.

Sometimes, he’s known as Dwight Calhoun. But that identity disappears when he stands in front of a group of 2- to 5-year-olds at Spirit Filled Academy in Columbus.

He asks a question that unveils his energetic alter ego, a guy who plays dance music and recites one of the most energetic renditions of the alphabet you’ll ever hear.

“ Are y’all ready to exercise?”

A certified personal trainer and dance/fitness instructor, Mr. CardioTone’s premise is simple: “If we are to have healthy adults, we must have healthy children.”

Childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some studies have identified childhood obesity as a possible risk factor for cardiovascular disease in adulthood.

Mr. CardioTone on Saturday will host an event at Spirit Filled Ministries that’s designed to promote exercise among children ages 2 to 10. It’s open to the public.

In addition to that event, Mr. CardioTone offers his program for churches, daycares, schools and more.

He knows he’s fighting a tough battle.

After their session with Mr. CardioTone, children go home and likely face the convenient lure of the fast-food drive-through window.

That’s why he touches on nutrition in his program, occasionally asking the young participants to sip an imaginary water bottle while repeating lines that emphasize water’s importance.

If all goes as planned, the children will apply a focus on hydration — with water, not soda — to their life outside the gym, too.

The program Mr. CardioTone teaches children is distant from the world of complicated routines. He focuses on high-energy versions of popular games and dances.

He teaches younger participants stretching and workout games with a program that includes leap frog, a crab walk and more. Older participants can try things like step-dancing and hip-hop line dancing.

To a spectator, the program seems different from the pain-inducing images that sometimes accompany references to exercise. Mr. CardioTone tries to make children see physical fitness as something positive.

Often, he accomplishes that goal.

“Exercising gets your muscles strong and flexible so you can get abs and so you can do things yourself,” said 8-year-old Jacob Tyner, who attends the after-school program at Spirit Filled Academy and has worked out with Mr. CardioTone.

Lesa Aldridge, one of the teachers who instructs 3-year-olds at Spirit Filled Academy, sees the anticipation rise as Mr. CardioTone’s visits approach.

“They like it when Mr. Cardio comes,” she said. “The sweat speaks for itself. You’re never too young to start.”

The 2- to 5-year-olds at Spirit Filled Christian Academy don’t offer complex exercise reflections after working out with Mr. CardioTone. Many of them simply want to keep having fun.

Most are likely too young to name specific muscle groups or list the medical conditions tied to obesity.

Still, 4-year-old Zaire-Hodge quickly offers his assessment of exercise: “It makes you dance.”

That attitude — a youthful tendency to correlate exercise with fun — suggests maybe Mr. CardioTone is capable of saving the world after all.

Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at ssorich@ledger- or 706-571-8516.

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