Everyone desires to be fit and healthy. But unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise can make staying fit a few pounds away. Children, too, need to be made aware of the importance of staying fit. Excessive consumption of processed food, sodas loaded with sugar, fast food, fried food, and so on is not only making them unhealthy. The Z Generation faces even greater likelihood of stagnation.  Children are more likely to experience less physical activity from a much younger age because of the accessibility of technology.

There is no doubt that the Z Generation is at a higher risk maintaining a state of obesity throughout their lives. The statistics are already supporting the theory that overweight adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming obese adults.[i]

Then again, you may be thinking children are children and how do you realistically stop them from overeating and sipping their favorite caffeinated Frappuccino drinks? In my opinion, that is really for the parents to deal through continuous engagement and familial discipline and is not be the focus of this post.

The greater question for gym owners, like me, to consider is how can we stimulate previously supported programs that the Y and preceding generations were able to enjoy in schools, like mandatory physical education and recess times? With only one state mandating that a physical education requirement in elementary and high schools left[ii], what can the private fitness industry do to step in to help fill the gap?

No Age Limit for Fitness

There is no particular age for being fit and healthy.  It is something that everyone irrespective of their age needs to be aware of and participate in. Staying fit does not just boost your confidence but also keeps you fight off diseases that usually accompany a weight gain. People of all generations can be affected by weight gain or obesity. So it gets essential for everyone to stay fit to ward off unnecessary extra pounds.

I may state the obvious here, but I have encountered fitness forums where questions have been asked about children and when and if it is too early for them to start engaging in fitness activities.

Fitness for the Little Ones

It should never been too early to start encouraging your child to exercise. If parents want their children to have a structured fitness environment, they are now readily available. There are gyms specifically for children, like The Little Gym and JW Tumbles, popping up all over the place that has age appropriate activity for toddlers to preadolescence.

One way for gym owners, operators, and personal trainers to utilize these new fitness trends is to collaborate with them!  If one of these “little” gyms are in close proximity to your fitness business, get together and offer cross promotions. For example, if you have an “regular” gym, you can offer any parent that becomes a member a free class or month trial the “little” gym and vice-verse. If parent walks in to the children’s gym, a cross promotion can be given to the parent for a nearby training studio or gym business.

Fitness guidelines for kids

As there is no age for fitness, inculcating the habit of exercising among children is also not a bad idea. In fact the earlier you guide them towards a healthy lifestyle, the better it is. You even might have seen young kids as young as 6 years old trying their hand at weight lifting. So there is no particular age for a kid to start physical training.Old school family fitness

The basics of fitness guidelines for kids are more or less the same as adults. Their physical training sessions should be safe and suitable for them depending on their age. These sessions must be properly maintained and monitored and if the child is keen on exercising with weights, they can be added gradually. But the most important thing while keeping your children fit is providing them with a knowledgeable trainer. A trainer who has no experience with kids may not be your ideal choice.

Gym Fitness for Teens

As a gym owner, I strongly advocate to get at least one of your personal trainers certified in Special Populations. Training children falls into the Special Population category and could greatly benefit your gym business. Current members may want to bring in their children to start training for sports, Et cetera. Also, I have encountered parents that primarily spend their family time and bond over a great workout session.

One way to help encourage this activity with parents and their teens is to provide family packages and sponsor family gym promotions and events. For example, small group training packages can be offered for the family or tailored specifically for a small group of teens and lead by an appropriately certified trainer. That way, parents can still bring their children to the gym, and know that while they get in a productive workout, that their child is also being properly trained. It should also be encouraged for parents to accompany their teens in their first few training sessions to both alleviate liability concerns and to boost the teens’ morale.

Other family friendly events can include relay races, swimming pool tournaments, dance-a-thons, and 5k marathons.  I am also sure the teens will be more involved in social media promotions and help encourage their parents to participate in as well too.  Provide incentives for social media “check-ins”, “likes” and “shares” for both the parents and children.  Incentives can include something related to your business like free t-shirts, protein shakers, or training sessions or it can include family tickets to a nearby miniature golf facility or sporting park.   This will simultaneously promote your business to their friends and continue to encourage family involvement in physical activities.

The gym environment is another consideration that needs to be analyzed before accepting teens as members. A gym that is full of adults may not be suitable for teens as they are likely to feel intimidated.  Segregating and providing fitness areas specially designed for training teens is a good option. If your gym is not big enough to have a teen section, then you can still alleviate the environmental concern by offering special times and days designated for parents family time and allow parents to bring their teens to the gym!

Health Risks and Other Business Concerns

There are no side effects in general when it comes to training kids at an early age. But what needs to be taken care of is that the kids do not end up training in the wrong way.  Of course, before children start specifically strength training, they should be checked out by a doctor to make sure it is safe for their body to do so.  Also make sure that your kids don’t overdo any form of exercise. So as long as they are training in the right way and at the right rate, there should be little concern.

As a gym owner, you still need to protect your business.  For any business owner, liability lurks around every corner.  Always have an attorney-approved written policy for those children that partake in your gym programs.  Always have a parent or guardian be present to review, consent, and sign the liability documents for their children,  AND always do background checks on your staff members to ensure that they can in fact be around children!

Children benefit a lot from getting into the habit of exercising. So, as fitness business owners, there is no harm in encouraging your membership base to get their children involved too!  Just be creative in helping to contribute towards the obesity solution and participate in smart business practices!

Topics for Discussion:

Does your gym have a child policy?
Does your gym offer teen programs?
Does your fitness business offer family promotions?

 


[i] Allan Besselink, Generation Z And Obesity, on the Internet at http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/smart/514-generation-z-and-obesity, last visited August 12, 2013.

[ii] Id. 

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