Kids exercising

Savannah Walker, 9, front, leads her fourth grade class in strength-training exercises with the Wii Fit under in class with Steve Feldman, the health and P.E. teacher at Woodview School in Grayslake, on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011. (Tribune file photo by Keri Wiginton / February 9, 2011)

Before he discovered exercise and fitness, Lance Breger was a skinny, insecure 12-year-old who struggled academically and felt harassed by an older boy at his new school.

But when Breger began working out, both his body and mind started to change. "My confidence grew, my anxiety lessened, and I even focused better at night for studying," said Breger, who was recently named one of North America's top program directors of 2011 by the IDEA Health and Fitness Association.  "This was a gift that I wanted to give to other kids when I ‘grew up.’ It has come full circle to my work and purpose in life today."

Breger, the co-founder of the non-profit Infinity Wellness Foundation, which works to bring health and fitness programs into underserved public schools in Washington D.C. recently shared his thoughts on everything from the workout he can't live without to why exercise deserves a place in public schools, along with reading, writing and arithmetic. Here's part of our interview:

Exercise is hard to start...Because of the laws of inertia. A body at rest will stay at rest unless acted on by a greater force. There may be a lack of immediate gratification, a perception of ‘work’ or pain, intimidation by long term goals (losing 50 pounds,) a previous bad experience with a ‘crazy’ trainer or confusion over the barrage of health and fitness information. Our goal is to shift the focus to health and vitality.

If I could do only one form of exercise…It would be yoga, no question. Hopping on the mat not only can  improve your flexibility and posture, but balance, core stability, muscular endurance, and cardiovascular system. Yoga's  relaxation, meditation, and deep breathing techniques can have an important inflluence on our health and hormones.

Obesity is…A multi-factorial disease. You need to surround it with a multi-disciplinary approach like our WellKIDS Wheel, not just attack it from one direction.

A qualified trainer …The public doesn’t cut their own hair; fill their own fillings – why are they doing their own exercise/fitness?

One habit I keep trying to break…Eating while standing or eating while distracted. The first lesson of proper nutrition is learning how to eat. We do this by sitting down, chewing, breathing, and focusing on our meal, not the TV or computer.

Lessons from children you’ve reached… Joseph bought a resistance band for his inactive grandmother: You don’t need fancy equipment or a gym to get active. Anna asked her mother to buy hummus because she experienced the healthy snack of carrots and hummus: You can never out-exercise poor nutrition, better eating is critical. Jessica told us that she used our meditation work from class to help her go to sleep in a bedroom she shared with three siblings. Mind/body practices are essential for relaxation, recovery, and productivity.

I’m committed to…Bringing the lifestyle skills of eating and exercising to equal importance as the skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic in our public schools.

As a role model for future generations…It is not enough to just give kids skills and knowledge. You need to live and be it. It needs to run through your veins.

Tomorrow we'll hear from Fraser Quelch, who also received the 2011 Program Director of the Year honor from IDEA. Quelch, the creator of the TRX suspension training system, is the director of training and development for the company. You can find more ideas from award-winning trainers at "Fitness tips from top trainers."