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Teaching healthy lifestyles to children is fun with 'Active from A to Z' 

When Jay Ablondi, IHRSA executive vice president of Global Products, was reading to his daughter Elle, now 3½, he noticed there were plenty of alphabet books but not necessarily many that had a message of exercise.

That gave him an idea. Or, actually, sparked an old idea that had been shelved for more than five years.

Ablondi and Stan Tran, IHRSA Association Management Systems administrator, had started working on a children’s book in the late 2000s but put it on hold due to time restraints and the recession. With his new revelation he went to Tran and set a deadline to finish, and publish, the book.

“Active from A to Z”, IHRSA’s first foray into publishing a children’s book, just became available for purchase this week. The 56-page publication is full of bright illustrations by Tran that complement Ablondi’s rhyming about animals being active and accompanying fun facts.

“I feel I have good editorial instincts but I never thought myself as a writer or author,” said Ablondi, who oversees IHRSA’s magazines and reports. “I know how hard it is to write a book and know much talent it takes.

“This is more of an idea that took on a life of its own. It became easy to do because I have (now) immersed myself in early children education books. It (then) just flowed.”

Tran is no stranger to drawing as he is the man behind IHRSA’s CBI magazine cartoon, “Out of Shape.” Tran said the two are not too different as he often features animals in the monthly strip.

A hippo playing hockey“I think there was a smooth transition – (the book and cartoon) have the same art style … and both involve animals,” said Tran, who also has a comic strip for From Scratch pet food. 

IHRSA dipping into the children’s book pool shouldn’t be too surprising. Part of the organization’s mission to help provide solutions for the growing obesity epidemic and dearth of activity by both adults and children. So, a book that IHRSA envisions will get kids interested in exercise with their parents’ participation fits in perfectly.

“This book will introduce them to other sports. (Kids and parents) need understand that exercise needs to be part of their lives,” Ablondi said. “The idea of the book is to help parents understand that not everything is sitting in front of a computer screen and watching TV. They can do new sports like racquetball or skateboarding over time, but why not expose them when they are first learning?”

With bears playing baseball, cheetahs on cycles and elephants on ellipticals, children will be introduced to new animals, physical activities and exercise equipment.

Conveniently, another part of IHRSA’s mission is to help grow the industry and its member clubs. Those reading the book now could easily be future members of IHRSA clubs.

“For our industry, the idea is that is never too early to instill healthy exercise habits,” Ablondi said. “Most of the millions of health club members in the world are adults. Many health clubs may not cater to kids but they can convey the message to parents to instill exercise habits and make it fun to exercise at early age. They want their children to live healthy lives and what better way than to have exercise be part of their daily routine?”

IHRSA associate member Helix, creator of the Lateral Trainer, decided to sponsor the book. President Lenny Snyderman said the book struck a chord with him and that is why he decided to have Helix be a part. He said he feels kids these days don’t heed the words he often heard as a child: “go outside and play.” 

“Today, we see less and less of (kids exercising) with limited freedom due to safety concerns as well as the growing dependence on ‘electronic’ activities,” Snyderman said. “I was very pleased to see someone taking the time to write about children and fitness while utilizing the power of IHRSA to raise a subject that really needs more focus in our country.”

An elephant on an ellipticalJim Schmaltz, editor of IHRSA’s Get Active! magazine, and Samantha Cuozzo, designer for CBI magazine, contributed to the book.

"What better time than May, which is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, to get the word out that it's never too early to teach kids that Fitness and learning can be fun," said Joe Moore, president and CEO of IHRSA.

To purchase the book, visit the “Active from A to Z” page on


Reader Comments (2)

Would love to hear about other children's books that promote fitness! - J.A.
May 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJay Ablondi
wonderfull idea to help kids and their relatives build helthy habits together !!!!
May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterFausto

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