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Wealthy parents hiring personal trainers for their anxious children

A man and a girl exercising by the sea
A 2022 study showed that children's activity levels had fallen below national guidelines - STANISLAW PYTEL/DIGITAL VISION

Wealthy parents are hiring celebrity-style personal trainers for their children amid a post-lockdown spike in anxiety.

Mel Capleton, director and founder of Open Air Fit, said that he had seen a 60 per cent increase in personal training requests for children at his training company in the past three to four years.

He told The Telegraph: “A lot of the increase is to do with the mental-health side. We’re seeing a lot more children with anxiety since the pandemic.

“It’s like a therapy – I’ve had a number of children who have been having mental health issues and sometimes it’s been recommended by the therapist or their doctor to get a little bit more exercise.”

Mel Capleton, founder of Open Air Fit
Mel Capleton says he is seeing more children with anxiety issues

Mr Capleton, who is a former professional goalkeeper turned personal fitness trainer, founded Open Air Fit in 2013 and currently coaches a number of young children in the south-west London area. Sessions start at £85 for three-quarters of an hour.

“It’s not cheap to personal-train your children and with these parents, if they can afford it, then I think everybody wants to give their children a little bit of an edge,” Mr Capleton said. He added he can “already see the difference” in some of the children he has worked with longer term.

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His comments came as comedian Katherine Ryan wrote in the The Telegraph Magazine that she has a personal trainer organised for her 14-year-old daughter, Violet.

“I think it’s a healthy routine for a young woman and for mental health,” she wrote, adding: “I don’t exercise, but I feel like my day has a lot of cardio woven into it, the kids like being tossed around.”

Other celebrities, such as Gordon Ramsay and, reportedly, Kim Kardashian, have been proponents of this approach for years, and have in the past organised personal training sessions for their offspring.

The trend of more parents doing the same may not only be down to the mental health benefits it brings their children, however, as many youngsters struggle with sedentary lifestyles.

“We have a lot of parents come to us because their kids can’t get into social circles in school,” Mr Capleton said.

“Now you kind of access your friends through consoles and games, whereas we used to do it on a personal level.

“We used to run around and climb trees and get into all sorts of trouble… now there’s not a lot of opportunity for kids to take part in sports.”

A study by the University of Bristol in 2022 showed that children’s physical activity levels had fallen below national guidelines in the wake of the pandemic. Researchers found that by the end of 2021, only slightly more than a third (36 per cent) were meeting the national recommended guidelines for physical activity.

“There are quite a few kids who are out of shape at the moment,” Mr Capleton said.

“We’re in a funny area in Wandsworth where you think you’d be quite lucky, but if you look at state schools and the sport and activity they have it’s really quite low.”