ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Mental health is more important than ever with kids, so one local nonprofit is using physical exercise as a method to help them deal with it.

Experts said that connecting a person’s mind and body is instrumental in dealing with one’s mental health. Rockford Barbell does just that, educating kids on how they can best handle uncomfortable and emotional states.

“Our facility is really set up and geared towards helping children who have experienced trauma,” said Nick Votava of Rockford Barbell.

Votava and Elliot Ganet has run the nonprofit for more than four years, working with kids aged 10-18 with mental health issues through physical work.

“I think our goal is a little bit different than just standard fitness training. We have the goal of combining the mental and physical together, so when we focus on is whole body movement to try and connect the mind and the body together at the same time,” Votava said. “Emphasizing this idea of self-regulation, being able to control our emotions, our thoughts and our behaviors through moving our bodies.”

Rockford Barbell had more than 50 kids this past summer. They have specialized equipment sutiable for kids.

The nonprofit receives most of its funding through donations, as well as grant money from those like the Winnebago County Mental Health Board. Classes span for six weeks, though the kids learn that this is beneficial as a lifestyle and not something to be completed.

“Learn that improving their physical health for their mental health is a process,” Ganet said. “It’s something that happens over time, it’s something that we’re doing lifelong.”

With the two having careers in education and working with children mixed with their passion for working out, it was a no brainer to come together to form Rockford Barbell. They hope to continue to heal and improve the lives of the future.

“Developmental age where they can be molded and learn new things,” Ganet said. “So, where we want to get them and teaching them new skills early so they can use them over time and ultimately be strong contributors to society.”