Making Children Healthier with Fitness Programming

For Gym Operators

Making Children Healthier with Fitness Programming

It is no secret that children are becoming less healthy. Technology has contributed to the fact that children are living increasingly sedentary lifestyles, eating unhealthy food, and developing chronic illnesses. Adding children’s programming to your facility will help address these important issues and create an additional revenue stream for your club.

The following is a summarization of an education session from the 2015 IHRSA Convention, produced with full permission from IHRSA. The full-length video is available for purchase at

About the Speaker

Lexie Griffiths is the CEO of POWAKIDZ, and is a former physical education teacher. She is a well-renowned coach, trainer, program developer, and keynote speaker. She has over 45 years of experience in the health and fitness industry.

Children's Programming

Get Started with Children's Programming

The first step you need to take is to define your vision. Be clear about who the programs are designed for and why. You also need to figure out what it will take to launch new programming in your club. Here are a few suggestions to get you off to a good start:

  • Keep your programs in line with your brand and core values.
  • Hire the right people. A positive and passionate staff that is able to work well with children is fundamental. Individuals who are social, enthusiastic, fun, and caring drive these programs.
  • Educate the whole team. Inform your team of your achievement goals and play to their strengths.
  • Involve both parents and schools.
  • Engage in community and school outreach.
  • Learn from individuals and organizations outside the industry.
  • Make the kids in your program your advocates and biggest promoters.

The fact is that obesity in children is extremely high. It is estimated that approximately 85 percent of obese children will be overweight or obese as adults. This will lead to the onset of chronic and lifestyle-related diseases for many individuals. We are already seeing that changes in diet, lifestyle, and education are leading to high rates of childhood diabetes, but we can take steps to reverse this trend.

Government Campaigns to Reduce Childhood Obesity

Across the world, we're seeing governments step up efforts to reduce childhood obesity in their respective countries. Some of these programs utilize strategies that might inspire an aspect of your program, such as incentivizing participation and rewarding success. The following are two examples of government programs that have been successful:

Dubai initiated a child health campaign directed at obesity. The "Your Child in Gold" program offered families one gram of gold for every kilogram a child managed to shed every month. If the whole family took part, the government doubled the reward. The campaign worked; children were successful in losing weight. This type of campaign may not be feasible in most other countries.

The United Kingdom sponsored the Change4life campaign, “Eat Well, Move More, Live Longer.” Parents who walked with their children to school earned loyalty points redeemable for the purchase of healthy food, sportswear, or exercise program participation.

Creating a family challenge within your facility can enhance retention rates and represents an effective marketing tool. Staff and club recognition by the facility for success is vital. A child will develop both emotionally and physically when encouraged from early childhood to explore and move naturally.

Effective kids’ programs require research and work with parents. Do not be a babysitting program. Implement safe, effective, and fun programs matching the children’s needs. Research the trends in children’s programming and devise programs with wide appeal. Think about whether your facility and philosophy are suited for kids’ exercise programs.

As you're deciding what your programs will include, consider what children want and how your club will benefit from the programming.

children's programming

It is critical that your team be on board with the new programming. Make sure that any staff member who might interact with children is trained to do so. With a motivated, educated team and solid programming, you should be well positioned to offer kids a life changing fitness experience.