This sentiment in the title from Benjamin Franklin is as true today as ever, especially when it comes to fitness and health. The past 50 years have seen a nearly triple increase in obesity rates for adults and youths, costing the American people $147 billion annually, according to the website USAFACTS.ORG.
The medical and fitness industries have addressed this problem with a reactive approach. Doctors use pharmaceuticals and surgery over nutrition, exercise, and therapy while the fitness industry markets and targets weight loss over wellness and prevention. However, the tide is turning. Global initiatives are being promoted by organizations like WHO and CDC, and a global initiative to reduce NCD (non-communicable disease) by 30% by 2030.
For us to reach this goal, it will take a multi-faceted preventive approach from youth fitness professionals. Exercise, education, nutrition, and agriculture all must be addressed to move the needle.
Opportunity for Fitness Professionals
Fitness pros who specialize in youth fitness will stand out in a saturated marketplace. The fitness industry in large part markets and sells memberships to adults. Youth fitness is usually based on sports, leaving out a majority, approximately 70%, of our youth population.
This falls in line with the fact that approximately only 25% of our youth meet the guidelines of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day. A comprehensive youth fitness program can help close that gap while building valuable financial opportunities.
A comprehensive approach is key to a successful youth fitness program includes safety, fun, and developmentally appropriate programming. Both physiological and psychological considerations need to be understood by the fitness pro.
Physiological differences include muscular strength, skeletal muscle mass, bone density, metabolic hormones, and thermoregulation. One important consideration is the inability of youths to thermo-regulate their body temperature at rest or during exercise. Hydration and rest must be monitored and programmed into youth fitness programs to ensure safety.
Psychologically understanding what a youth finds value in and addressing that in your program will lead to greater success and adherence.
A youth fitness professional needs to understand how to build rapport and communicate appropriately. This allows them to find what the client values. Social pressures, peer pressures, academic prowess, or sports achievement are core areas of value for youth clients.
The Five Steps for Preventing Youth Obesity
Incorporating a five-step process when working with youth clients can help the youth fitness pros and their clients identify what they value. The steps include:
Vision is establishing a clear goal of what they want out of the program. Vision paints a clear picture in their own words of what they want to achieve. Maybe the vision is to be on the basketball team with good grades, so they get into a good college. Maybe they want to go into the military or be in the marching band. Help them define a clear vision. Then help with the strategy.
Strategy is the plan and the process it takes to reach that vision. Scheduling time for workouts and practicing the fundamentals of their sport can be a strategy you incorporate.
Belief comes when they learn to celebrate wins. A challenge must be overcome at an appropriate time and celebrated to build belief.
Following a plan and encouraging clients to push through is a skill that leads to success in fitness as well as other areas of their life. Learning what works and what isn’t working through self-monitoring allows for course corrections leading to greater achievement.
A comprehensive youth program serves a unique and important need for society and fitness professionals. Specializing in youth fitness serves to address the growing obesity dilemma while creating a unique path for fitness leaders.
Get educated and motivated to be the ounce of prevention leading to a pound of cure.