7 Ways to Get Kids and Teens Active in Your Gym

Whether you are looking to create new youth initiatives or you are looking to revamp your current programs, these seven ideas will help you get kids and teens moving.

The CDC recommends that kids and teens get 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity every day. Sadly, only about 21% of 6- to 19-year-olds meet this goal. Instilling healthy behaviors in our children isn’t just great for their health well into adulthood, it can help build a better world.

Health clubs and fitness facilities across the globe recognize that childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. The fitness industry is in a unique position to identify ways to address this issue and clubs have seen the benefits of adding children’s programming to your gym’s offerings.

We talked to some of our members who run successful programs for kids and teens and put together a list of seven programming ideas for you to try at your club.

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7 Ways to Get Kids and Teens Active in Your Gym

1. Child Care that Doubles as a Workout

Parents often need to bring their younger kids (under 14) to the health club when they are working out. Therefore, it can be beneficial to offer child care options that also provide active opportunities for kids, like a playground area or a kids-only area with active games like four square.

2. After-School Programs

In the U.S., both parents work full time in 60% of marriages. Many parents need a child care solution for the hours between school and the end of the work day—and clubs can provide that solution. Consider offering specific programs for this time slot.

3. Youth Sports Teams

Many clubs have basketball courts, racquetball courts, tennis courts, and swimming pools. Clubs can use these amenities to offer sport-specific lessons or even competitive teams or leagues catered to a younger audience.

4. Sport-specific Conditioning

As kids move into middle and high school, many begin to specialize in one or two sports and try out for school teams. Clubs can offer great athletic conditioning programs that fit the needs of these kids. Consider programs that help kids work on speed, agility, or weightlifting. These programs will help kids prepare for tryouts and allow them to maintain their fitness abilities year round.

5. Special Hours

Many young members visit the health club after school, between 3:30 and 5:00 p.m. Several clubs have seen success by offering discounted memberships to teens who frequent the gym before 5 p.m. during the week in the summer or during after-school hours. These types of memberships can be a great way to attract teens whose parents aren’t already members. Also, parents who see their teen develop healthy behaviors may get inspired to join them at the gym.

6. Child or Teen-specific Nutrition Education

Many clubs now offer nutrition counseling and/or education, but often the information is focused on adult issues like weight loss and heart disease prevention. Try offering a few sessions focused on topics of interest to the younger group, such as how to choose easy, healthy snacks or how young athletes can pick the best sports nutrition plan.

7. Social Events

Fostering a sense of community is good for members of all ages. Consider holding events for the younger crowd, such as an under-18 tennis tournament or pool day, or run a fitness challenge culminating in a party and prizes.

If you're ready to start creating programs to offer your members and their kids and teens, be sure to check out our resource on how to keep kids safe in your club.

Do you have a great program you run for the kids and teens in your community? Tell us about it on Facebook and Twitter!

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Alexandra Black Larcom @ihrsagetactive

Alexandra Black Larcom, MPH, RD, LDN, is the Senior Manager of Health Promotion & Health Policy for IHRSA. She spends her days working on resources and projects that help IHRSA clubs offer effective health programs in their communities, and convincing lawmakers that policies promoting exercise are an excellent idea. Outside the office you'll most likely find Alex at the gym, running on the Charles River, or, in the fall, by a TV cheering on the Florida Gators.