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Starting Young

youth fitness

GoodLife Fitness takes a stand against childhood obesity with numerous youth fitness programs. 

It is no secret that with continuous developments in technology, an increasing number of youth today have adopted a sedentary lifestyle. This lack of physical activity negatively impacts their mental and physical health, academic performance and much more.

GoodLife Fitness, the largest health club chain in Canada, is an example of one of the many gyms that have developed numerous youth fitness programs in order to fight this trend and promote a healthy lifestyle for all kids.

“We know that 68 percent of Canadian youth between the ages of 12 and 17 are sedentary for half of their waking hours, and we really want to make an impact on that,” said Tracy Matthews, the executive director of member services at GoodLife Fitness.

To provide you with a little inspiration, here is a quick look at some of GoodLife Fitness’ various youth programs.

GoodLife Kids Foundation

Founded in 1998, the GoodLife Kids Foundation aims to uphold the same values of GoodLife Fitness, which includes providing every Canadian — adult and child — with the opportunity to live a fit, healthy and good life. Lisa Burrows, the executive director of the GoodLife Kids Foundation, explained they work to achieve this mission through several programs.

The GoodLife Kids Foundation Grant Program contributes funding to organizations that provide ongoing physical activity programs for children with special needs. Grants of up to $10,000 are available to registered charities with four deadlines each year.

The Win4Kids Contest is an annual contest where the public nominates programs that are getting kids active in communities across Canada. “We select 10 finalists and they get to share in the $100,000 prize,” said Burrows. “The public votes for the finalists, and based on how many votes they get, [this] will determine how much money the organization wins.”

In order to raise funds for each of these programs, all GoodLife Fitness clubs across Canada participate in the Spin4Kids Plus Event. But according to Burrows, developing a substantial charity program takes time. “You have to be realistic,” she explained. “The growth does not happen overnight like it might within the business side of things. There is certainly a need for patience and really finding that sweet spot of what works well.”

GoodLife4Kids School Program 

Not all families have the time and resources to join a gym, therefore it is essential to find ways to engage all kids, not just a specific demographic. In order to reach a larger population of youth in Canada, GoodLife Fitness developed the GoodLife4Kids School Program.

Through the GoodLife4Kids School Program, certified GoodLife Fitness instructors partner with local schools and teachers to provide fitness instruction to 4th grade students, at no cost to the schools. “We have engaged GoodLife Fitness coaches to help us teach the basics of fitness in partnership with 4th grade teachers,” said Kim Simpson, the program director for the GoodLife4Kids School Program. “Our coaches teach the beginning foundational skills in yoga, fitness and dance. The aim is to build teachers’ confidence in teaching fitness skills as part of their physical education curriculum.”

The GoodLife4Kids School Program started with 12 pilot locations for the 2014-2015 school year. After an extremely positive response, the program has grown and is currently operating in 75 schools, spanning eight provinces across Canada. According to Simpson, the plan is to be in 100 schools by September 2016.

“It is growing quickly to say the least and I think that speaks to the need,” explained Simpson. “Not often are you able to offer a program to a school at no cost. Kids need to be more active, so if we can find new ways of doing that and keeping them engaged in physical activity, then it is really great. We hear from our coaches that they love being able to share their passion for fitness with kids in their own communities.”

GoodLife Free Teen Fitness Program 

It’s summer time, school is out, the weather is nice and kids have nothing to do. This is the perfect time to encourage them to get involved in healthy habits. Starting July 1st and running through the end of August, youth between the ages of 12 and 17 have access to GoodLife Fitness clubs for free through the GoodLife Free Teen Fitness Program.

During the summer months, teens can utilize the club between the hours of 8 to 4. “We felt that between these hours is when the clubs have the most staff in them, so it is a great time for the youth to get help when they are in the club and ensure that they are using the equipment properly and getting involved in the right programs to achieve their fitness goals,” said Matthews.

The Free Teen Program has been running for seven years and each summer has grown exponentially. According to Matthews, last year was the biggest year yet, with over 80,000 teens registering to participate.

If you are looking to implement something similar, Matthews suggested looking around the club to find areas where teens would be most engaged. “Look at the areas of the club where teens could be the most successful and where they will find the best love of fitness, and make sure they get started in those areas,” added Matthews. “The intention is to make an impact on youth fitness overall and how we get them to fall in love with fitness, so it is a lifelong journey, not just one or two visits. We really want them to see the benefits for them and the impact it can have on their lives.”

Emily Harbourne

Emily Harbourne is the former assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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