• 13 – 16 April 2023
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18. January 2023, Conny Müller

Fit Kids or Couch Potatoes? Children As a Target Group in Group Training

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Many children do not exercise enough and the number of overweight children is increasing; both can have considerable consequences for their health. It is time to consider this target group. Appropriate offers and programmes can be implemented quickly and easily, especially in the group training sector. By offering such programmes, studios can also attract the customers of the future at an early stage and retain them in the long term.

The German Society for Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (DGKJ), the German Obesity Society (DAG) and the Working Group on Childhood and Adolescent Obesity (AGA) described the development of childhood obesity as a "silent pandemic" as early as 2021 and urged health politics to include this problem in the agenda. They referred to the results of the KiGGS survey from 2018, according to which 15.4 percent of three - to 17-year-olds in Germany were already overweight and 5.9 percent obese at that time. The cross-sectional results also showed that less than 30 percent of three to 17-year-olds met the recommendations for physical activity of the World Health Organisation (WHO) of at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day at moderate to high intensity.

A recent representative forsa survey commissioned by the DAG and the Else Kröner-Fresenius Centre for Nutritional Medicine (EKFZ) illustrates the current development: since the beginning of the Corona pandemic, every sixth child has gained weight. In the age group of ten- to twelve-year-olds, even every third child is affected by unhealthy weight gain.

Mainly due to the second lockdown from the end of 2021, the nutritional and especially the physical activity situation of children and adolescents has now even worsened. 

Time to act

The situation described makes it clear that fitness and health providers should (once again) be aware of the target group of children between the ages of three and twelve. With an attractive offer, they have the opportunity to make an important contribution so that children become fit and not couch potatoes. The following aspects should support you on your way to a children's fitness programme:

1. The right approach: fun

Children primarily adopt their behaviour patterns from role models. Children also take their cues from adults when it comes to sport and exercise. In principle, it is recommended to teach children about sport as something positive and to emphasise how important exercise is for good health.

However, children are often not yet able to classify this feeling of well-being after sport or to make the connection to health. This means that a different approach is needed here: fun! An exercise programme for children must be more interesting and fun than sitting on the couch. It has to satisfy children's natural curiosity and the urge to try things out. This is exactly where fitness providers can start to tap into this new target group.

For practical implementation, the group training area is ideal in various respects: The course room offers a large area that is ideally suited for free movements, games and creativity. A programme can be implemented here easily and with little additional material. Also, a separate offer in the course room does not affect the activities on the training floor. From an economic point of view, a children's fitness programme can fill the empty course room when there is free capacity and even allow parents to train simultaneously. 

2. Acquisition

In the initial consultation with people interested in fitness, the question of having children of one's own should be a standard part of the needs analysis. Here, the previous activity of the kids can be taken into account and a correspondingly attractive offer can be made in advance (e.g. family memberships, children's and adult courses at the same time).

Furthermore, children of existing members of all ages can be recruited through voucher campaigns. Co-operations with kindergartens and/or schools also bring new contacts. Intensive and target group-adapted marketing on social media platforms should also be integrated into the acquisition process in order to optimally address children whose parents do not train in the gym as well as potential cooperation partners and to increase one's own reach.

3. The trainers’ competence

The competence of the trainer team is crucial. A basic professional qualification with specialisation in children's training is the basis. In practical implementation, further considerations come into play: far too often, children are criticised too harshly in their everyday lives, are under pressure to perform and thus lose the fun in the process. Many children and young people today feel almost as stressed in their everyday lives as adults.

Therefore, empathy and understanding towards the new target group must be prioritised. In order to motivate children in the long term, praise and appreciation, honest interest and active listening come first. Long-term motivation can subsequently also lead to long-term customer loyalty all the way into adulthood.

4. The training programme

The overriding goal of all children's fitness programmes should be to convey the joy and fun of exercise. Only if this is given, children will stay with it for a longer period of time and thus have the chance to experience the manifold positive effects of sport on their physical and mental development as well as on their health.

In terms of content, the training of sports motor skills must be implemented in an age-appropriate manner, taking into account the stage of development. For example, in early school age (six/seven to ten years), speed experiences its highest developmental spurt. The training of motor skills such as strength, coordination and mobility, which is appropriate for children, should also be given more attention at the age mentioned above. The load structure as well as the breaks should be adapted to the age and performance level of the children. 


About the author

Conny Müller, M. A. Prevention and Health Management, has been lecturing at the German University for Prevention and Health Management (DHfPG) and BSA Academy for five years. Previously, she was responsible for the conception and implementation of children's activities in the hotel industry at home and abroad, among other things, and is still active as a children's fitness trainer.


Excerpt from the bibliography

Deutsche Adipositas Gesellschaft & Else Kröner-Fresenius-Zentrum für Ernährungsmedizin. (2022). Folgen der Pandemie: Wie Corona das Gesundheitsverhalten von Kindern und Jugendlichen verändert hat. [Consequences of the pandemic: How Corona changed the health behaviour of children and adolescents]. Accessed 18.01.2023.

Hanewinkel, R., Hansen, J., Neumann, C. & Petersen, F. L. (2021). Präventionsradar. Erhebung Schuljahr 20/21. Kinder- und Jugendgesundheit in Schulen. [Prevention radar. Survey school year 20/21. Child and youth health in schools]. Ergebnisbericht 2020/2021. Kiel: Institut für Therapie- und Gesundheitsforschung (IFT-Nord).

Schmidt, S. C. E., Burchartz, A., Kolb, S., Niessner, C., Oriwol, D., Hanssen-Doose, A. et al. (2021). Zur Situation der körperlich-sportlichen Aktivität von Kindern und Jugendlichen während der COVID-19 Pandemie in Deutschland: Die Motorik-Modul Studie (MoMo). ). [On the situation of physical activity among children and adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany: The Motor Module Study (MoMo)]. KIT Scientific Working Papers, 165. Karlsruhe: KIT.

For a complete bibliography, please contact marketing@dhfpg-bsa.de.

This article was first published in fitness Management.