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Gym for kids, family helps Las Vegas residents stay trim together

His chubby cheeks and round belly made Andrew Berry an easy target for teasing on his elementary school playground.

Tired of the sneers and more important, worried for his health, the then-10-year-old decided he needed to change his lifestyle.

"I was concerned about my weight," said Andrew, now 11 and gearing up for sixth grade.

After asking his parents to join a gym, they struggled to find programs that allowed kids. Then they found Body Fit Las Vegas, a fitness club in their Spring Valley neighborhood that offers training for the whole family. The gym opened in March and expanded this summer to its new location, 6415 S. Tenaya Way, more than doubling its size to 5,300 square feet.

Marcus Niemo, the gym's owner, said family fitness is what it's all about because getting healthy requires a lifestyle change. With childhood obesity rates increasing each year, he said it's vital for him to offer affordable gym access to kids.

Nearly 20 percent, or 12.5 million of children ages of 2 to 19, are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It's bringing parents and kids together," said Niemo of his gym's style. "As a parent, you have to be an example. Plus, it's bonding."

Andrew works out with his older brother Frederick and their parents nearly every day.

"I think it's great," Frederick, 14, said. "Our whole family could use it."

During the school year, the boys lift weights with their dad at 5 a.m.

"It's becoming a habit," Andrew said. "Mostly."

Although Body Fit is open 24 hours for regular use, Niemo also teaches classes and training for individuals or families.

He incorporates nutrition and exercises one can do in the living room into the instruction, he said. And even with its expansion, the gym is small -- a plus for kids who can be intimidated at larger venues.

The Berry brothers said they like Niemo's help because it's about making good habits, and there is no pressure to lose weight. In fact, they haven't stepped on a scale since they started exercising.

"I don't need to," Andrew said. "I know I've lost a little weight. I know I've gotten stronger. I feel better. It's helped me a lot."

Niemo said sometimes weight-loss goals can be defeating for kids who continuously fail to meet them.

Instead, it's more important to focus on making physical activity consistent, fun and positive, he said.

Just because he enjoys working out with Niemo's direction doesn't mean it's easy, Andrew said.

"It's hard," he said, a bit out of breath from his sweaty warm-up on the treadmill. "We do a lot of different exercises."

The brothers, who used to fight constantly, followed Niemo's quick instructions during a class one afternoon -- leg scissors, push-ups, squats, running in place, Pilates poses, sit-ups -- all within the first 20 minutes.

Going through it with his older brother seems to make it easier, Andrew admitted.

At the call that the workout is finally over, Frederick offers Andrew a fist pump: "Good job; we did it!"