Give Your Club a Family Fitness Fix

As the family unit continues to be overshadowed by the frenzy of life, family fitness classes are a welcome addition to the club industry. In fact, family fitness programming has been recognized by the American Council on Exercise as one of the top 10 fitness trends in 2000.

Basically, it just makes sense. Family fitness saves time (exercising and spending time together become one activity), alleviates parental guilt (the kids aren't in childcare), offers an avenue for parents to guide their children to a healthy lifestyle and provides a positive environment for all family members.

Healthy Families, Healthy Clubs
Fitness facilities also benefit from family programs. It opens doors to the inactive market, increasing membership in multiples. Family programming can occupy the group-exercise studio during downtimes, plus it provides a great selling point for reps. Furthermore, family fitness introduces great public-relations opportunities. Overall, this programming is a great revenue generator.

Marketing Matters
It's important to pay close attention to the marketing phase of family fitness programming. First educate the members within your facility. (For tips on how to reach nonmembers, see sidebar, Marketing Family Fitness to Your Community.)

Distribute articles about childhood obesity, physical inactivity, the breakdown of the family unit and the like. Allow your members to recognize themselves and their family members in these articles. And challenge your staff to discuss topics such as childhood obesity and inactivity with members.

The Kickoff
Once the seeds have been planted, kick things off by announcing a Family Fitness Night. This evening should include anyone who has a family or just wants to be a part of one, or anyone who has a kid or just likes to play like one. This first class might involve 30 minutes of education, 30 minutes of activities, question and answer time, and an hour or so of social time with healthy snacks and an inspirational movie clip.

General Guidelines
The specifics of formatting family fitness classes are vast. Here are some general guidelines to follow: Offer a non-threatening, noncompetitive, welcoming environment for all ages and fitness levels. Keep the intensity levels moderate, and limit the cardio segment to 30 minutes.

Organization and flow are key to the success of this class. This is a challenge because the participants are so diverse. A playground of partner- and team-based activities work best. The universal needs of this group are the desire to have fun, fit in and be successful. And an educated, enthusiastic and empathetic instructor will have the ability to cover all of those needs.


Marketing Family Fitness to Your Community

1. Reach the home-school market via local libraries. Home-school families need a fitness outlet.

2. Schedule a meeting with local pastors or rabbis. There are many inactive families in their congregations. Offer to help them get active.

3. Share a sample Family Fitness Night at the elementary and middle schools in your area.

4. Help Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts earn their fitness badges by giving discounted family fitness classes to them and their families.

5. Give a talk at a local chamber of commerce's monthly luncheon meeting.


Elements of Effective Family Fitness Programming

1. Create a "class family" by fostering relationships through partner and team activities.

2. Focus on simple movement and a fun, party-like or playground-like atmosphere.

3. Begin all classes with a goal, and center all activities around it. Build on each goal over the weeks so that a journey of progress is accomplished.

4. Appeal to the universal needs for fun, belongingness and self-esteem.

5. Feature one child per week as a "student of the week."

6. Give a preview or goal for the week to come. Kids love to look forward to something.

7. Offer rewards for consistent attendance. Sticker books work great.

8. Class organization and program flow are everything.

9. Handouts on fitness topics continue the education process and show that you care.

10. Contact your insurance carrier and attorney concerning liability issues prior to the program.