Personal Trainers for Tots?

First a disclaimer: I've never worked with a personal trainer. So, from my (possibly deprived) point of view, personal trainers seem like a luxury item. To me, a regular workout with a trainer belongs in the same "perks-I want" category as a standing appointment with a massage therapist or a weekly manicure.

So, it was with some envy that I read that a million or so kids— some as young as six —have their own personal trainer. For $60 per hour, professional trainers help children exercise and support their fitness goals from an early age.

According to an Associated Press article, people seek out trainers for kids for a variety of benefits, ranging from losing weight to improving their performance in sports. Children under the age of 17 now comprise about 13 percent of the personal training clients.

Now, I do wonder whether these clients are kids who have their own Range Rovers and trust funds. Or are they children who are already battling obesity and really need extra encouragment and counseling to exercise?

The fact is, we live in an era when childhood obesity takes a significant toll on the health of our kids. We also know that schools have scaled back their sports and PE programs, and that kids often don't get enough daily exercise.

Several parents quoted in the article mentioned completely valid reasons for hiring a trainer to shape up their child. For instance, one mom noted that a personal trainer helped her son with his sense of balance and coordination. She also appreciated that he was learning to integrate exercise into daily life. Others noted that exercise added to kids' confidence and sense of accomplishment. Most important, the one-on-one training has helped some kids shed a great deal of extra weight.

Now, these are great reasons to bring a personal trainer into a child's life. But at the same time, I also think that kids are kids. Getting exercise should be as uncomplicated as riding a bike around the block or playing soccer with friends. Especially since trainers are expensive. Also, focusing on exercise in a traditionally grown-up way may be hard on kids. For one thing, there are physical differences. The article noted that trainers need to understand the different physical requirements and limitations that kids face as their bodies grow and develop.

I'm also unsure if training sessions are healthy from an emotional standpoint. Do they build confidence? Or do they set the stage for eating disorders or body image issues as the kid gets older?

Clearly, parents need to have the extra resources to afford a trainer for their kids. For those who can swing it and whose children genuinely benefit, I'm sure that a personal trainer is a great option.

Then again, so are regular bike and hike outings with the family.

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