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Offering Teen Fitness Programs This Summer? Watch Your Risk Exposure


Summer is officially underway, leaving teenagers across the country with plenty of time and energy to spend. These warm months are the perfect time for fitness centers to increase their client base with teenagers looking to get in shape or prepare for next season’s athletics. However, with the increase in client base comes several risks that fitness center managers need to address. 

Teenagers can be somewhat impulsive and reckless at times, opening up several risks for fitness center managers. Teens who don’t know their own strength or aren’t experienced exercisers risk injuring themselves by pushing themselves too far, in addition to potentially damaging equipment. There are also certain areas of a gym, such as a sauna or hut tub, that aren’t designed for younger clientele and can open up another range of risks. To make the most of this increased business while limiting the chances of claims, fitness center owners and managers should follow these practices:

1. Draft Clear and Thorough Waivers

Most gyms and fitness centers require clients to sign a waiver before officially starting their membership. First, note that waivers signed by minors are non-enforceable. A waiver will not completely prevent a claim, but it at least serves as evidence that the legal guardian of a teenager was aware of the inherent risks of using a gym. The form should outline the general risks of a gym and the specific risks of the gym regarding its structure and location. It should also have a section for parents to assume the risk of their child and should not promise anything that cannot be certainly upheld, such as a guaranteed safe environment. 

2. Provide a Gym Orientation Session and Offer Training

Teenagers tend to injure themselves simply because they are not aware of their own limits. Most fitness centers have high-quality training staff and these trainers should be readily available to keep track of younger clients. To that end, upon signing on with the gym, teens should undergo a thorough orientation session. This should include a walkthrough of all the equipment, explaining how to use each machine and the potential injury risks. After the walkthrough, a brief lesson on basic gym practices, such as proper resting between sets, gym etiquette and equipment sanitization would be ideal. 

3. Highlight Restricted Areas

During the orientation process, make sure teens are aware of which areas are off-limits. Consider supplementing this with age-restricted keycards so they cannot access these locations without proper ID. A simpler solution would also be to station an employee outside these areas at all times. 

Summer is a chance for great business for fitness centers and gyms. While these strategies won’t completely eliminate the chance of an accident, they can help clients mitigate the risk that comes with managing that increased business. 

A good insurance partner who understands the unique risks of the fitness industry can be a valuable partner in ensuring a gym or fitness studio has a good risk mitigation strategy in place, as well as the proper insurance coverage to kick in should an unfortunate incident occur.  

Brian Rawlings is practice leader for FITLIFE®, which insures fitness, wellness and spa facilities for Venture Programs. He can be reached at brawlings@ventureprograms.com. 

Brian Rawlings

Brian Rawlings is Practice Leader for FITLIFE, which insures fitness facilities, health clubs & spas, for Venture Programs. He can be reached by phone at 800-282-6247 ext.323 or email: brawlings@ventureprograms.com.  

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