Gyms that allow children to join are an excellent investment as they make a place the entire family can get fit and be active together. Childhood obesity was a serious issue for a long time, but in recent years the numbers have leveled off. "Since 2003-2004, the obesity rate among U.S. youth ages 2 to 19 has held steady at 17%," reports the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It's a change credited to comprehensive change in schools and public education.
Families are finding that those who move together are happier and healthier together! Researchers found a direct link between the activity level of the mother and the child; not to mention how it creates fun, engaging, quality time together. Being able to have your kids with you at the gym removes a tremendous barrier for adults trying to meet their daily exercise goals, whether they're in a care program or pumping weights alongside you.
Before you register your child for a gym or an exercise program, talk to your doctor, as she or the gym may require a physical examination and clearance.
Find a Kid-Friendly Gym
The easiest way to identify gyms that do allow children is to call those in your area or check their websites. Access to the gym floor and weight room is usually restricted until about age 13, and some will allow earlier access when accompanied by a parent or registered adult.
Here are a few national gym brands that open their doors to younger members*:
- 24 Hour Fitness: Age 12 accompanied by an adult member.
- Planet Fitness: Age 13-18 when a parent has a membership in good standing.
- Gold's Gym: Age 13 accompanied by an adult member.
- Crunch Fitness: Age 13 with an adult member aged 21.
- Equinox: Age 14 accompanied by an adult member.
- Anytime Fitness: Age 13 accompanied by an adult member.
- YMCA: Age 14 who have completed orientation; access without a parent.
Schedule a tour for your child to meet the staff, observe fitness classes, and learn gym etiquette. Be sure to inquire about discounted family rates.
Alternatively, many gyms or local rec centers offer group or organized classes that are age appropriate. Contact them to see which programs are available to children and teens. Review the options with your children to identify activities they'd be interested in.
*Some gyms are individually owned and operated and rules may vary by location.
If you and the gym allow your child to join, be sure the gym meets certain guidelines that ensure safety.
- Staff and trainers should be qualified to work and have experience with children.
- Programming organized specifically for children and teens.
- Children should be taught how to safely and correctly operate exercise equipment.
- Supervision should be required, either with staff and/or parents.
- Children do not use equipment that can harm them, like heavy weight machines.
- Family-friendly atmosphere.
Be sure to ask what the gym does to identify child members and their parents or guardians. Do they have their own memberships cards and sign-in? Are there protocols for checking children in and out of the gym?
Some fitness centers are designed exclusively for children, like MyGym, Gymboree, and The Little Gym. Like their adult-only counterparts, these are built around younger clientele where kids can run, jump, tumble, and climb to their heart's desire, as well as participate in more traditional fitness classes you'd see organized at the gym. You may even see smaller machines that can accommodate children and teens.
Even if a gym does employ restrictions on younger children, many do offer babysitting services. Usually for a nominal fee or as part of your membership, children are dropped off and monitored by sitters employed by the gym. Like other gym staff, these individuals are usually required to be CPR certified. Be sure to ask what kind of activities take place in the room—some are merely playrooms with a TV and snacks, where others are veritable gyms within a gym where kids can get the wiggles out.