Husband and wife team takes on childhood obesity in Jackson Heights

By Bill Parry

A Jackson Heights fitness center has started an outreach program in an effort to combat childhood obesity.

The owners of Executive Fitness and Wellness Center, Richard and Rafaella Ramirez, have been sending a team of trainers and nutritionists to area public and charter schools to educate overweight children and hopefully get them to the gym.

“We have people ask us all the time if they can bring their 10-year-old in for some cardio workouts because they’re concerned about the child’s weight,” Rafaella said. “Our own son was overweight so Richard came up with a program for him and he lost 25 pounds. We figured if it helped him, it could help all of the neighborhood children.”

The longtime Jackson Heights residents blame sedentary habits for the obesity crisis and they are concerned that kids spend too much time in front of their computers and eating fast food when they should be out getting exercise and bonding with their peers.

“We have a good size state-of-the-art gym with nearly 11,000 square feet so there’s plenty of room for kids,” Rafaella said. “We have a large area that would be good for stretching and classes. We think if we make it fun, like mix it with hip hop, then the kids would be in to it. We’ll try anything to get them in the gym. We want to help as many as we can.”

The Ramirezes moved the Executive Fitness and Wellness Center to its current location at 86-10 Roosevelt Ave. last year after 13 years up the block. Many of their nearly 6,000 clients made the move to the new location as well.

“We’re a mom-and-pop, family-oriented operation so we care a great deal for our clients and their families,” Rafaella said. “We help out as many people as we can.”

Richard is a certified personal trainer while Rafaella has 25 years in management. They feel strongly that an important part of owning a business is being a good neighbor to the community.

“We have more than 30 kids already in the program and we hope to have it in full swing by April as the weather gets warmer,” Rafaella said. “We’re also planning a weight management center with a resident physician in about five months.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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