WORDS BY ERICA NEWTON, MYFIRSTGYM CO-FOUNDER
No, they’re not. So there!
Gyms. They get such a bad rap. Take a trip through Instagram and there’s lots of evidence to suggest gyms are terrible for your self-esteem, full of scary body builders who grunt and people who hog the machine you came to train on. Not to mention #sweat #everywhere #gross. But does that mean the gym is bad for kids? #absolutelynot
Children and the gym.
It’s a common misconception that gyms are not suitable for children:
- Kids will be exposed to heavy weights!
- The equipment is unsafe!
- High intensity exercise will cause harm and ruin their development!
- Gyms are ‘adults only’ places, only!
These are all just myths. I can personally guarantee that kids will not burst into flames if they cross the threshold of a gym and start using the equipment (under appropriate supervision of course). In reality, gyms provide numerous benefits for our children’s physical and mental health which, to be honest, is in a really scary state.
Gyms are a necessary, untapped resource for kids.
Why? Because too many Australian kids are overweight.
The Australian government released its decade-long National Obesity Strategy last year. It addresses the fact that: Australia has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world … About 14 million Australians are living with overweight or obesity – that’s 2 in every 3 adults, and 1 in 4 children.
What’s most frightening, is that unhealthy weight gain starts early and increases with age. This affects our kid’s growth, development and mental health all the way through their childhood, into adolescence and adulthood. Put simply, if your child is overweight and obese now, and no action is taken to get healthier, they are much more likely to suffer from preventable chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and at least thirteen forms of cancer.
Getting kids active is an essential part of the solution, and if they wanted to access a gym to get moving, why wouldn’t we be bending over the elliptical trainer to make that happen? Because of the ridiculous myth that gyms are bad for kids. Here’s why they’re not.
Gyms are safe
Gyms prioritise safety and have stringent safety protocols. In places like MyFirstGym, there are specialised instructors trained to work with children. Many MyFirstGym franchisees have certificates and degrees in the health industry, while Coaches are trained to ensure exercises are performed safely and correctly. At ‘regular’ gyms, there will also be age-appropriate equipment and weights that are specifically designed for children, reducing the risk of injury even further.
Exercise is essential for kids
This is an absolute no-brainer: children need exercise to stay healthy and maintain a healthy weight. Exercising does not harm our kids, but helps them build strong bones and muscles, improves cardiovascular health, and enhances their overall wellbeing. Regular exercise can also help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease in later life.
Gyms offer a variety of activities for kids
Different age groups, fitness levels and equipment: gyms cater to them all! Some gyms have indoor play areas designed for younger children, while others have sports facilities and group fitness classes for adolescents. At MyFirstGym, we have a whole suite of classes so that children can participate in activities they enjoy, making exercise fun and engaging.
Gyms can help kids make new friends
Team sports ain’t for everyone, but the fact remains that exercising with others is an excellent way to connect and socialise. Group classes help build social skills and confidence. Gyms also offer a healthy sense of community and belonging, something our children are desperately searching for in their teens.
Will my child like the gym?
Most gyms have a trial period, where you can visit for a week or two to see if it’s a good fit. A circuit class, where lots of different activities and machines are used for a short amount of time (anywhere between 30 seconds and three minutes), is an excellent place to start. MyFirstGym school holiday camps are another great way to see whether this kind of gym suits your child. Plus, they’re being supervised while you work or have a long lie down. #parentingmakesmetired
Using the gym for kids’ health and wellbeing.
Dan and I were horrified when we read the statistics about obesity in Australia. We knew we had to do something about it, not just for our kids, but every child in this country. This has become one of our core principles, and is part of the reason why we’re so proud of our franchisees. These incredible people also want to do something about Australia’s obesity epidemic and inspire movement! As a disclaimer it would be pertinent to share that not every gym is great for kids. As a female, I’ve had my fair share of unpleasant gym experiences. Take your pick, from too much testosterone around the weights zone, zero support from the rostered on trainer and those who refuse to wipe down their machines #gymetiquette #itsathing. But in a safe and supportive space like MyFirstGym, our children can become more resilient, confident and develop a love for movement.
To learn more about becoming part of the MyFirstGym Family, check out highlights from our recent MyFirstGym Conference.