Study Reveals Kids’ Fitness Is Still Bad—but You Can Change That

A group of young kids run through a line of orange cones in a gym.

Here’s a tragedy:

According to a new report, kids’ fitness has been varying levels of awful at a national level in Canada for 12 years straight.

That’s an entire generation of kids who didn’t move much and are now likely well on their way to being sedentary adults at heightened risk of all the diseases that come with inactivity.

It’s truly sad. And it highlights yet another opportunity for gym owners as a recession looms large.

A head shot of writer Mike Warkentin and the column name "Pressing It Out."

The recently released “2022 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth” listed the following grades for kids fitness:

  • 2010—F
  • 2011—F
  • 2012—F
  • 2013—D-
  • 2014—D-
  • 2015—D-
  • 2016—D-
  • 2018—D+
  • 2020—D+
  • 2022—D

This year’s D—a decline from 2020 and 2018—was awarded because the report creators believe just 28 percent of kids get an average of 60 minutes of “moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity” every day.

More horrid grades:

  • Active play—D-
  • Organized sport—C+ (down from a B in 2020)
  • Sedentary behaviours—F
  • 24-hour movement behaviours—F (“This year’s grade remains an F based on an average of 5% of children and youth in Canada meeting the physical activity, screen time and sleep duration recommendations within the ‘Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines.'”)

This is just terrible. And it’s very preventable.

Do You Have a Kids Program? Is It Full of Kids?

As a gym owner, you have the power to change these numbers. And I believe your work is far more important than anything governments can do. In recent times, legislators seem more inclined to tape off playgrounds and cancel kids sports. But I’ll avoid that rabbit hole.

If you can connect with children and help them learn to love movement now, the downstream benefits are immeasurable.

However, our 2022 State of the Industry data indicates that less than 40 percent of gyms offer kids programs. Those that do offer kids programs generate, on average, 9 percent of their revenue from serving young ones. (The full report—including Chris Cooper’s detailed analysis—will be released in December.)

I’ll challenge you to change those numbers for 2023. I’m not suggesting every gym must have a kids program. Some gym owners just aren’t into training youths and want to focus elsewhere. That’s fine. But Chris Cooper has long recommended gym owners grow a small number of strong revenue streams, and a kids program is an obvious option.

Kids programs are slam dunks for many reasons, and I won’t list them all. I’ll just remind you that helping kids will have a huge long-term effect on your community. And I’ll remind you that kids programs can generate a lot of revenue.

For example, a dozen gyms in our State of the Industry report generate between 25 and 40 percent of their revenue by serving kids. Some generate more. And most generate much less.

Those numbers should give you pause. Think about it: Without any extreme new space and equipment needs, you might be able to generate 20 percent more revenue at your gym. All you really need is a coach, who can be paid a percentage of program revenue—4/9ths is a great number. That means you won’t add any staffing costs that aren’t covered by new revenue.

So where do you get clients? This might be the easiest win of all: Many of your adult clients have kids. These parents already know, like and trust you, and they see value in your service. I’d suggest you’ll get five or 10 kids into a new youth program simply by starting one and telling your members about it (I actually did this at my gym).

Beyond “just starting a program,” you can use a host of tactics to get young ones moving in your gym. You don’t even have to come up with them. Just join the Facebook group Gym Owners United and comment on this post: “11 Ways to Super-Size a Kids Program—Fast.”

If you use even one or two of the tactics in that guide, you’ll generate revenue for your business.

And you’ll get more kids moving—which is becoming more and more important every year.


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.