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May 03, 2022

Planet Fitness offers free gym memberships to high school students this summer

Research shows when teens exercise regularly, it improves their academics and leads to better mental and physical health

Fitness Teens
Planet Fitness Teens Free William Bretzger/Wilmington News Journal

Planet Fitness is offering free memberships to high school students this summer as part of its High School Summer Pass initiative. There are 16 Planet Fitness gyms in Philadelphia and dozens more in the region. This photo shows a Planet Fitness gym in Delaware.

With gym classes and high school sports seasons winding down as schools get ready to close for the summer next month, Planet Fitness is making plans to keep teens active during the long break.

The chain of gyms is offering free summer memberships to its facilities for students ages 14 to 19. The memberships are good from May 16 to Aug. 31 and are part of Planet Fitness' High School Summer Pass initiative. The gym first offered free summer memberships to students in 2019 and more than 900,000 teens in the U.S. and Canada signed up that year, the company said.

There are 16 Planet Fitness gyms in Philadelphia, in addition to dozens of locations in South Jersey and the Pennsylvania suburbs. You can search the gym's website for the location closest to you.

Registration begins May 16 but students can pre-register on the company's website to get a reminder later this month. Teens younger than 18 must sign up at a Planet Fitness location with a parent.

"We believe we have a responsibility to provide a welcoming, safe and judgment free environment for high school students to improve their physical and mental wellness," said Chris Rondeau, the chain's CEO. "Particularly given the challenges they have and continue to face in the wake of the pandemic."

Research shows that during the COVID-19 pandemic, many teens did not get the 60 minutes of daily exercise recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Social Services. One study found that out of over 5,000 participants, only 9% met the physical activity guidelines – down from 16.1% before the public health crisis began.

Black and Latino adolescents from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were even less likely to meet the guidelines, averaging just two hours of exercise per week.

Teens who exercise for at least 60 minutes per day have better mental health than those who do not, researchers note, and this could be among the contributors to adolescent mental health declining during the COVID-19 pandemic.

survey by the University of Michigan found 1 in 34 parents of teen girls and one in five parents of teen boys noticed new or worsening anxiety in their children during the pandemic.

Research also shows the physical health benefits that exercising can have on teens. Regular exercise helps them better recover from disease, accidents or disabilities, increase their strength and endurance and reduce their risk for chronic diseases.

The amount and quality of sleep that teens get improves by regular exercise, as well. A study found that when teens got more physical activity than usual, they go to sleep earlier, slept longer and slept better

Improved physical and mental health, coupled with better sleeping habits, helps teens get better grades. CDC researchers found that exercising can improve overall academic achievement. Cognitive skills got a boost too, which can lead to improved concentration, attention and classroom behavior.  

Those who sign up for the program will be automatically entered into the High School Summer Pass Sweepstakes. At the end of the summer, Planet Fitness will award one teen the grand prize of a $5,000 scholarship and one in each state a $500 scholarship.

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