Fitness and Your Teenager

teenfitnessYoung people who engage in sports and exercise tend to stay active throughout their lives. That’s why it’s so important that you encourage your 13- to 18-year-old to participate in physical activities – either alone or with a group. Such things will keep them active, boost their self-confidence, provide opportunities for social interaction, and offer them a chance to have fun.

Physical activity tends to decline during the teen years. Studies show that teens on average spend more than 6 hours a day on various media, including watching TV, listening to music, surfing online, and playing video games. It’s not surprising that teens can’t seem to find the time to exercise and many parents can’t motivate them to be active.

Given the opportunity and interest, teens can reap health benefits from almost any activity they enjoy – skateboarding, rollerblading, yoga, swimming, dancing, or kicking a hacky-sack around in the driveway.  Whatever they choose to do, it’s recommended that teens get at least 1 hour of physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week.

Encourage your teenager to work physical activity into their daily routine, whether that means walking to school, doing labor-intensive chores around the house or yard, or finding an active part-time job. They can be camp counselors, restaurant servers, or assistant coaches for youth sports teams – any job that comes with a chance to be active will both keep your teen on their feet and teach them a little about financial responsibility in the process.

Parents should try to give teens control over how they decide to be physically active. Teenagers are in the process defining themselves as individuals and want the power to make their own decisions. As a parent, it’s important that you emphasize that it’s not what they do; they just need to be physically active on a regular basis.

Once they get started, many teens enjoy the feeling of reduced stress and increased strength and energy they get from exercise. This feeling will hopefully make them want to continue exercising without nudging from a parent.