Many parents who love lifting weights want to share the passion with their kids. Strength training is beneficial for kids, and allows them to build strength, coordination and good habits.
But there are restrictions, and they vary from gym to gym. Most gyms in the US allow children to start training at 13 years old while there are also alternatives like kids’ only clubs and childcare.
In this guide, we’ll go through specific rules for largest nationwide chains, to help you pick a perfect club for you and your child.
What Are Age Restrictions In Different Gyms?
If you want to find out what’s the age restriction for your local gym, the easiest way is to call them or check the FAQ or Terms and Conditions section of their websites. In general, access to gyms in the US is restricted until the age of 13. Some gyms allow earlier access when the child is accompanied by an adult.
We did a large portion of research for you, and here is the list of national chains that allow children to work out:
24 Hour Fitness: 18 when alone and from age 12 when with a parent.
Equinox: 18 when alone, from age 14 with a parent.
Anytime Fitness: generally children aged 13 can work out with a parent, but the age depends on state laws.
Gold’s Gym: 13 years and older accompanied by an adult member.
Crunch Fitness : children aged 13 accompanied by a parent or any adult member above 21
YMCA: There are orientations for children aged 14 and above, after which the child can access the gym without a parent.
Lifetime Fitness – from 11 years for the fitness floor, and children can visit the weight room from age 12 with supervision and consent form from the parent.
Curves – No minimal age requirement is stated, it depends on the state laws.
As you can see, the limit for lifting weights starts at age 13 for most gyms. However, some gyms also offer group classes that kids of any age can try out. That’s a great method to get the child into strength training, and these exercises also might be more suitable for younger children.
Contact your local gym to find out age restrictions and to check if they have programs for children.
Gym Features You Should Look For
When you find a gym that will allow your child to join, you should first go on your own to see it is a safe environment for them.
Something that says it’s a good choice for kids right off the bat is that the gym offers programs for children. Although you don’t need to use those programs, it does indicate the staff has experience and ability to work with children.
Additionally, if the only gym that accepts kids is far away from your home or there’s no suitable parking, you might want to look further. There’s no need to settle for the first gym you find, and it’s possible there is a gym closer to your home that will also be open to accepting your child. Location is important. You don’t spend too much of your child’s time in getting there, as that may decrease their motivation. A gym close to school is also an awesome idea.
Amenities at the gym are also important – some gyms are primarily focused on bodybuilding, and you might want something that also has a cardio and functional fitness area for your child, so you can start with body weight and free weight exercises.
Fees are something you should double check. Some gyms offer cheaper or free access to children, while others have family deals. If you’re going for a long term contact, check the terms. Children can get bored with an activity quite quickly. So, just in case, check if you can put the membership on hold while on holiday, whether there is a penalty for cancelling and if there are any extra costs – e.g. for classes or daycare.
Finally, before you start working out, get a guest pass or ask staff to take you on a tour. Safety is important for you, but it’s many times more important for children. Some things you should look for is the condition of the equipment, and whether the facility is clean.
The atmosphere and energy of the gym are just as essential as safety – you want your child to feel good there. See if the staff is helpful, certificated and friendly. Also, gyms often attract a certain type of crowd, so see if the members overall are people you’d be comfortable your child to be around.
Overall, when choosing a gym for children, it should be an appropriate, safe and welcoming space to ensure the best possible experience for them.
As more and more people want to share their love for fitness with their children, the new trend is on the rise. Kid-only gyms are still in a beginner stage but are something worth checking out if you want your kid to work out with their peers.
Kid-only fitness centers are made exclusively for children, and they offer them to play, run, jump, participate in classes and even strength train on smaller machines.
Here are a couple of kid only gym brands so you can check if any of them has a studio near your area:
Fitwize 4 Kids is designed for kids between 5 and 15 years of age. They stand out with their classes which combine resistant circuit training with education on nutrition. Their classes are 45 minutes long, and they are built not only to work on physical fitness, but also to educate the kids on nutrition, promote self-esteem and build healthy habits in a welcoming and fun environment.
The Little Gym is another awesome concept, and their clientele are children from only 4 months old, up to 12 years. They are focused on guided programs that are adapted for different stages of childhood and development. The programs include imaginative plays and movement-based learning to help the kids build healthy habits, skills and confidence.
My Gym Children’s Fitness Center was first opened in 1983 and offers classes for children between 3 months and 9 years. Their classes fuse many activities to keep it fun and interesting for children and help build their skills, and they fuse dancing, play, sports and gymnastics. Since My Gym has more than 200 centers nationwide, it’s highly likely you’ll find a studio near you.
Gymboree is a well-developed concept that offers specially designed classes for children from their first months to 5 years. They are focused on both physical activity and engaging thinking, to help children build strength through play, learn to solve problems and boost their creativity.
If you can’t find a gym near you that allows your child to participate, you will likely find one that offers babysitting services. This is a great way to introduce young children to the gym. Although they won’t lift weights, they will get used to the environment and it will easier to get them to exercise with you once they pass the age restriction.
Child care is led by sitters who usually have a CPR certification. Some day care centers even offer exercise classes where kids can start building their fitness habits.
Many gyms with daycare have a low age restriction too, and are a great pick if you have more children of different ages. Let’s go through some of the best US gyms with daycare so you can make the best pick for you and your children.
Equinox allows children older than 14 to work out with a parent, but hey also have a Kid’s Club. It’s designed for children from 3 months to 7 years and is available 7 days a week in more than a half of Equinox’s clubs. Kids are engaged with creative activities, games and playhouses and the staff is certified in first aid and CPR. Some Equinox gyms include childcare in your membership, while others require you to pay an additional fee – make sure to check your location before you decide.
24 Hour Fitness is a great option for anyone with a busy schedule, and they also offer awesome daycare. Most 24 Fitness studios have Kids’ Clubs with CPR/AED certified staff. They offer tons of physical and creative activities so children can play and make new friends while you work out.
YMCA has a Child Watch program that’s free for members who work out in their facilities. They accept children of all ages and give them fun activities to do while you’re working out. Exact programming depends on the location, but you can easily check that out on their website.
Crunch offers Kid’s Crunch programming for children aged 1 to 12. This program is available at most of the locations and offers supervised play with toys as well as crafts. The program is usually paid additionally and the cost varies for different clubs.
Lifetime Athletic is known for their modern fitness facilities, but they also offer childcare that’s free for up to three hours. The certified staff leads a bunch of fun activities, while the club also organizes kids events focused on supervised games, making healthy meals and exploring crafts.
Gold’s Gym has a Kid’s Club at numerous locations in the country. Since Gold Line clubs are independently owned, child care programming and costs vary from club to club.
LA Fitness also has their Kid’s club for kids aged 3 months to 11 years. The babysitters are certified and background checked and the playrooms have tons of toys and equipment for active play. You can even check up on your children while working out by contacting the staff through the LA Fitness mobile app.
Always Supervise Children In The Gym
Strength training is great for children – but without supervision, it can become dangerous. If your child is a part of a daycare or kids only gym program, the staff will give them adequate guidance.
However, if your child is going to the gym with you, it’s important to supervise them and teach them to use the equipment properly. Additionally, make sure to focus on form rather than using heavy weights.
Children should be monitored but also have enough rest time. If they do too much too soon, it could lead to an overuse injury including bone, ligament and muscle damage. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that children don’t strength train more than three times per week.
Here a couple of dos and don’ts for children’s strength training:
Learn the exercise properly before adding any weight
Mix strength training with a cardio activity like biking, swimming and running
Always warm up
Stretch after every workout to keep the muscles long and flexible
Prioritize high rep and low weight workouts
Make sure someone is always watching the child while they’re working out
Encourage weight lifting to kids younger than 7
Force children to do anything they don’t enjoy
Allow children to lift weights if they don’t have proper form
Give children access to dangerous machines like the leg press
Do powerlifting programs and similar heavy lifting exercises
Is Strength Training Good For Kids?
Strength training is safe and beneficial for kids. Contrary to the common misconception, strength training doesn’t stunt child’s growth. It can build their strength, help them to develop a habit of training and improve their performance in sports. Strength can boost their ability to run and jump, and they are more likely to continue being physically active as they grow up.
When Should Children Start Strength Training?
If the activity is age appropriate, there is no time limit when kids can start to strength train. By focusing on body weight and pyrometric workouts in the pre-puberty period, the kids will have a good foundation to start the gym when they’re ready – which is usually recommended for children from 13 years above. Expose children younger than that to workouts like running, jumping, squats and push-ups, and they will be able to better understand and perform exercises at the gym, and have a much lower risk of injury.
If you are a fitness enthusiast and your kids want to join you, there are many options. Gyms are now allowing children as young as 13 to use their weight equipment, and others offer alternatives like kids only spaces and childcare. Exposing children to strength training is great for their physical development, but supervision is crucial. If they’re doing the exercises properly and in a safe environment, it will be an awesome experience for them, and develop into a habit that will keep them healthy and active through life.