I spend a lot of time at the gym, and I’ve noticed a growing trend. More and more parents are bringing their kids to the gym with them. At first, I didn’t know what to think. I was worried about safety and the equipment, not to mention I didn’t want to be pestered by kids running around unsupervised. In the last year, however, I haven’t had a single problem. I’m even encouraging families to bring their kids, now.
My change of heart was an easy one. The kids who come in to work out are more well-rounded individuals after spending consistent time at the gym. When kids work out with their parents, they learn all kinds of useful life skills, and practice skills that they don’t normally take out of their boxes.
Younger kids (10-14) are required to work out 1-on-1 with their parents. If they are on treadmills, for example, they can be side by side. If they are using the muscle-isolation machines, though, they have to take turns with their parent supervising their exercises. These kids help their parents clean the machines, and the parents are able to teach them good form.
Older kids (15+) can use machines unsupervised, and practice responsible behaviors on their own. They let other people work in with them on their circuit. They are expected to clean their machines without prompting. They are also expected to treat everyone with respect. If they don’t live up to these expectations, other gym-goers, including myself, are comfortable telling them about it, without being mean.
Aside from practicing behaving well, there are many other benefits:
- Kids who work out are more self-aware, but less self-conscious.
- They gain confidence in their growing bodies, because they are using them, even though they are changing every day.
- Kids see many different body types, all working to be healthy, most without trying to look “traditionally” attractive.
- These kids also learn to be part of a community that isn’t made up of peers only.
- Kids also feel more proactive. Working out gives them the chance to take control of themselves in a new way.
- Exercise also stimulates the brain, and improves cardiovascular development, which helps kids focus in school, and on homework.
Now, it’s not for everyone. Our daughter loves to exercise, so it fits her well. Our son, however, still prefers to work out at home. He’s young, though, and we will have many more chances to try it again. For him, it’s just boring, and we aren’t forcing the gym on him. When he’s older, we will encourage him more strongly, but for now, he can use our elliptical at home.