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May 18, 2023

Planet Fitness offers free summer gym memberships to high school students

The fitness chain, which has 17 Philadelphia locations, also is giving away $100,000 in academic scholarships

As the school year winds down and thousands of Philadelphia high school students look for ways to spend summer vacation, Planet Fitness is providing an outlet for them to stay active.

The fitness chain's summer pass program, now in its third year, allows high school students ages 14–19 to attend free fitness classes and use its workout equipment from May through August. The promotion, which begins during Mental Health Awareness Month, aims to keep students motivated and improve their mental health through exercise.

Students can sign up online or in person at their local gyms. Those who are under 18 must have permission from a parent or legal guardian to receive a free summer pass. Once registered, teens will have access to all exercise and wellness equipment and group fitness classes at one selected Planet Fitness location. Parents can receive a free one-day pass during the summer if their child is registered. 

Participants also can enter a contest to win $10,000 academic scholarships by making a TikTok about their experience using the free gym memberships. It must be submitted by Aug. 31. Ten winners will be chosen. Also, the 10 schools with the most summer pass program participants will receive $10,000 for fitness equipment and athletic programs. 

"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." 

There are 17 Planet Fitness locations in Philadelphia, including the newest location on North Broad Street in the city's Spring Garden section. There are additional locations in the suburbs and South Jersey. High schoolers and their parents can search for the closest fitness club by using the Planet Fitness gym locator

Physical activity can sometimes be more difficult to come by in the summer, when gym classes end and extracurricular activities like fitness clubs and school sports are paused. Last year, the summer pass program included 3.5 million students. 

The World Health Organization recommends children up to 17 years old engage in at least one hour of moderate to vigorous exercise each day for their physical and mental health. Adolescents that meet that requirement tend to experience greater academic success than their less active peers, according to a study in the Human Kinetics Journal.

Regular exercise can help people better recover from accidents or disabilities, increase strength and endurance and reduce risk for chronic disease. Exercise also has been linked to better sleep, improved concentration and reduced substance abuse

People who have less motivation to exercise may have more success by choosing something that they genuinely enjoy doing, Grace Albin, a personal trainer, told Well+Good. Reaping the benefits of exercise requires frequent practice and regular workouts, so determining what form of physical activity individuals are interested in is key to forming routines and staying active.

Increasingly, doctors are prescribing exercise as part of treatment for specific mental illnesses, including depression. This is because exercise decreases sensitivity to the body's reaction to anxiety and helps promote the growth of neurons in the hippocampus that can relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, Verywell Mind reported. 

"Exercise alters the brain by releasing endorphins and a mix of natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being," Megan Hellman, a performance manager at Future, told Parade. "Following an exercise program can also increase feelings of control, self-confidence and body positivity which all impact mental health." 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that mental health struggles are on the rise among American teenagers, with 29% of students experiencing poor mental health in 2021.

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