In the grand scheme of things, gyms haven’t been around for long. Typically, they are established for adults and are not designed for kids. Now, with some gyms allowing teenagers (or younger kids) access to a gym, you may be wondering whether they should, and what are the risks? There are a few things to consider before you sign your child up to the nearest gym.
First, it’s important to address why kids might need to go to a gym. You may have a child who wants to improve their strength or fitness to be more competitive in their chosen sport, or to prevent injury. Your kids may be lacking basic fitness or strength due to our modern lifestyles. While you may not have had to consciously make the effort to exercise when you were a child, you also probably didn’t grow up in an environment with smartphones, high academic pressures, and easy access to entertainment.
The reality is that the kids of today are leading more sedentary lives than ever before. They also don’t enjoy the same freedoms we used to – to play freely and explore either at school or at home. This is why a gym with programs specifically designed for kids (like Fitter Futures), can be so valuable. They provide a space where children can exercise, learn how to train safely, improve their physical capability and build resilience, and also establish healthy lifestyle habits for their adolescence and adulthood.
An important factor to take note of is that, while kids or teens joining a gym might appeal to you or your child, you need to ensure that the establishment has some specialist expertise in how to coach youth and that it is a positive environment for kids. This is not the same thing as using a gym that is predominantly geared towards adults that is happy to allow kids or teens access under adult supervision (or even under the supervision of their coaches, if their coaches are not specifically educated about the intricacies of training youth). It’s completely safe and beneficial for kids and teens to be a part of a gym, as long as they are participating in programs specifically designed for youth, and are closely supervised by professional youth coaches.
The danger comes when kids and teens are receiving supervision or instruction from a trainer who doesn’t have an understanding of the developmental, emotional and physiological needs of youth. Training kids as ‘miniature adults’ or modifying a program for adults and prescribing it for kids or teenagers will NOT be in their best interests. There is also a high risk of injury if the coach does not have the knowledge and experience to properly coach good technique, quality movement and with sensible progressions (including the weight the athlete is moving).
If you’re interested in signing your child or teenager up for a gym, the best option is one that caters to their specific needs. Look for a gym specifically for children and youth with coaches and trainers who are professional youth coaches with a deep understanding of the physiology and development of youth. It is also important that they educate the young people they’re working with about gym safety, proper form and technique, and the importance of moving safely and progressing weights gradually.
There are definitely benefits of kids and teenagers going to a gym to help them get fitter, stronger, and build the foundation of a healthy lifestyle – so long as it is a gym that has specialist expertise in youth and prioritises what is best for kids!
If you’re wanting to help your child increase their self-esteem, build their confidence, work on having a positive body image and be surrounded by amazing kids and awesome coaches, sign up for a free trial at Australia’s leading functional fitness gym for kids, teens and parents by sign up HERE.