Judgment-free, stress-free and fee-free

Planet Fitness’ High School Summer Pass returns for its third year


Cindy Phung

Jogging on a treadmill, sophomore Emily Kate Beach works out at Planet Fitness. Beach plans to continue her fitness journey before basketball season. “I felt more productive and confident after going to the gym. Even a little workout was better than no workout,” Beach said.

Since 1949, Mental Health Awareness Month — occurring every May — acknowledges millions of Americans affected by mental illness. In 2021, the Center for Disease Control’s “Youth Risk Behavior Survey” reported that about 29% of high schoolers struggle with poor mental health. Recognizing the issues teens have with mental and physical health, Planet Fitness launches its Summer Pass during Mental Health Awareness Month. The annual free program invites teens, ages 14 to 19, to stay active during a season where sports or classes may be out of session from May 15 to Aug. 31. 

In today’s age, where teens often turn to vaping or drinking to cope with stress, depression or anxiety, physical activity has its health benefits instead of quick fixes. However, the American Heart Association stated that only around 25% of high school students get the recommended daily 60 minutes of physical activity. So, physical education teacher Jessica Wheeler spends time during her health classes educating students on the positive hormones released during exercise.

“The endorphins we release while exercising are linked to the hormones released when we feel happy. So the dopamine released into our system through exercise makes us feel a sense of accomplishment about ourselves for working hard and getting something done to better ourselves,” Wheeler said. “Then, usually when we look good, we tend to feel good and have better body image thoughts and a healthier overall perspective of ourselves, which in turn directly relates to good mental health.”

Planet Fitness advertises its environment as a judgment-free zone, with messages on walls and machines reading “you belong” or “no gymtimidation.” From cardio machines to a 30-minute circuit room, the gym offers a variety of equipment for any student’s goals. For student-athletes like sophomore Emily Kate Beach, the Summer Pass is convenient to maintain fitness and a consistent training schedule.

[When] you get to high school, a lot of other people start taking [sports] more seriously. Once I saw that my game was what I put into it off the court and the field, I [wanted] to grow the discipline of having that routine, waking up every day and not being lazy all summer. I want to prove to myself that I can do it. I want to grow muscle and keep my conditioning so that I can go into basketball season strong and feeling good,” Beach said.

When physical education teacher Jeff Duncan is not working out in the weight room on campus, he utilizes his year-round Planet Fitness membership. Since the Summer Pass was introduced, his two daughters have joined him over the summer. 

“I’ve gone with [my daughters] before to help them out and made them programs, [but] they can drive, so they’re good to go to the gym themselves,” Duncan said. “It’s important to develop good habits, and that’s what we’re trying to do through various classes, whether it be Fitness Concepts, Health, Yoga or Strength and Conditioning. Whatever it may be, I think [that] the younger you can start getting in that habit of being physically active, you can carry that on into young adulthood and for the rest of your life.”