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Tracy Frank, Published April 22 2009

Interactive fitness center gets kids moving

Perham, Minn.-Several kids recently spent the afternoon here playing video games and boosting their heart rates at the same time.

Instead of sitting around using their thumbs to work the games, they were jumping, dancing, kickboxing and biking.

The Zone is an interactive fitness center that uses technology to encourage adults and kids to play and work out at the same time.

Matt and Jill Thomason of Glyndon, and Jill Thomason’s parents, Allen and Kathy Braaten of rural Frazee, opened the facility last May.

They wanted to offer a place where the entire family could play together while exercising in disguise, Matt Thomason said.

“(Gyms) typically don’t allow kids to work out in the fitness area,” he said. “Here, families can come in together.”

They also wanted to give kids who don’t participate in sports an opportunity for physical exercise, Kathy Braaten said.

“The thought behind it is to try and get the gamers off the couch,” Allen Braaten said.

The Zone uses XRKade equipment developed by Colorado-based iTech Fitness. The equipment uses body movements to interact with the game, making players part of it. They can compete against others or just the computer.

The Zone is the first stand-alone XRKade facility. They are typically found in community centers or YMCAs, Thomason said. Thomason and Braaten are also distributors of the equipment.

They plan to franchise The Zone and are talking with someone about possibly opening one in Fargo.

Corinna Boyum, a mother of three, was The Zone’s first member. She said her family goes there every night if they can.

“If they want to play games, you might as well have them be active while they’re doing it,” she said. “It’s easy for me to get a workout in, too.”

Boyum has a son with Asperger’s disorder who likes video games and electronics. She has a hard time getting him to leave the house, but since joining The Zone, he has become physically active, lost weight and has something to look forward to, she said.

Memberships start at $19.95 a month. Customers can also pay $5 for the day.

The Zone also has treadmills and elliptical machines.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526