By Brett Klika, C.S.C.S. & IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year (2013)
Their headphones are huge, their eyes- rolls are bigger, and they now have a historically high need for physical activity.
These awkward and emotional children- transitioning–into-adulthood have often been viewed as a liability by many fitness institutions. Their quickly changing bodies make them prone to injury. Their fragile psyches create behavioral concerns.
What do teens need?
It’s easy to understand why all of the above can be a red flag for participation in programs offered at a fitness facility. Modern teenagers, however, represent a large population in need of physical activity. Once a highly active demographic, the majority of teenagers have become sedentary, spending their free time interacting with technology.
While many fitness facilities remain hesitant to welcome this “risky” group of youngsters, those who understand the physiological as well as psychological needs of teenagers have an opportunity to grow their programs while answering their community’s need for teen physical activity.
Puberty during the teenage years represent the fastest and most dramatic physiological transition in human development. Brain development follows body development, and vice versa. Changing, awkward bodies create similar emotional states. Regular physical activity during puberty can be a powerful tool to help create a better balance of the two.
As a matter of fact, research suggests that physical activity prior to and during puberty can be a substantial indicator of lifelong fitness and health.
Fitness programs for teens should encompass all of the traditional aspects of flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular fitness. In order to accommodate the modern short attention spans and decreased physical preparedness however, these programs must be presented in a non-traditional way.
Teen Fitness Programming Ideas
While many adults remember getting fit at the hands of a clipboard-adorned coach or teacher directing them through monotonous calisthenic sequences, today’s teens need action. They need all their senses stimulated. They need to PLAY.
Physical play was once an assumption of how young children spent most of their free time. During this time they would develop a broad array of physical skills, in addition to an affinity for physical activity. Today’s teens are part of a generation that witnessed a significant decrease in free time physical play.
Re-creating the climbing, jumping, rolling, spinning, chasing, throwing, skipping, and other movements many adults remember doing during action-packed summer days with neighborhood kids not only provides teens with the physiological tools they need for physical fitness, it answers their psychological need for fun.
Small or large group programs that include martial arts, dance, yoga, parkour, obstacle courses, water sports, playground games, and either simulated or actual outdoor activities provide non-exclusionary, fun opportunities for teen physical activity.
Combining various activities into circuits (Station 1: Yoga exercise, Station 2: Box jump overs, Station 3: Punching bag, etc.) keeps the young participants engaged and active.
Traditional training (weight lifting, running, etc.) and athletics can be very powerful tools for fitness, however, they are largely criteria based and tend to exclude large numbers of teens that can’t perform up to par. Even for high performing athletic youth, all of the activities mentioned above can broaden their “movement vocabulary”, improving their already stellar abilities.
A variety of apps have married the worlds of technology and fitness, an ideal combination for teens. Integrating and creating an understanding for self performance variables such as hear rate, calories burned, steps taken, etc. enhances the relevance of fitness programs for this demographic.
Regardless of the regimentation of any program, supervision is highly recommended. When clear rules and constructs are presented and enforced however, teens can thrive relatively independently, requiring minimal staffing.
When fitness facilities understand the needs of modern teens, they can provide fun, unique, and effective programs that not only grow their memberships, but also impact their health of their community for years to come!
So let your adult members know that teen fitness programming is available within your facility. To help encourage new teen memberships, you can offer a special reduced rate for members with qualifying children in your approved age range. If you set aside a group class for teens on the weekends, you’ll have a better chance getting parents to bring their kids in while they typically visit your facility for their own workouts and classes. Try one of our suggestions and see if you can start a teenage membership base in your club.