As kids enter their teen years, they might lose interest in physical activity. Between school, homework, friends, and even part-time jobs, they're juggling a lot of interests and responsibilities.
But regular physical activity can help your teen feel more energetic, improve focus and attention, and promote a better outlook. And regular physical activity can help your child maintain a healthy weight and prevent heart disease, diabetes, and other medical problems later in life.
Fitness in the Teen Years
Physical activity guidelines for teens recommend that they get 1 hour or more of moderate to strong physical activity daily.
- Most of the physical activity should be aerobic, where they use large muscles and continue for a period of time. Examples of aerobic activity are running, swimming, and dancing.
- Any moderate to strong activity counts toward the 60-minute goal.
- Muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening physical activity should be included at least 3 days a week.
Teens can be active in sports and structured exercise programs that include muscle- and bone-strengthening activities. Weight training, under supervision of a qualified adult, can improve strength and help prevent sports injuries.
Given the opportunity and interest, teens can get health benefits from almost any activity they enjoy — skateboarding, touch football, yoga, swimming, dancing, or kicking a footbag in the driveway. Teens can work physical activity into everyday routines, such as walking to school, doing chores, or finding an active part-time job.
Motivating Teens to Be Active
Parents should give teens control over how they decide to be physically active. Teens want to make their own decisions, so give them a choice. Emphasize that it's not what they do — they just need to be active.
Once they get started, many teens enjoy the feelings of well-being, reduced stress, and increased strength and energy they get from exercise. As a result, some begin to exercise regularly without nudging from a parent.
For teens to stay motivated, the activities should be fun. Support your teen's choices by providing equipment, transportation, and companionship. Peers can play an influential role in teens' lives, so create opportunities for them to be active with their friends.
Help your teen stay active by finding an exercise plan that fits with his or her schedule. Your teen may not have time to play a team sport at school or in a local league. But many gyms offer teen memberships, and kids might be able to squeeze in a visit before or after school.
Some teens might feel more comfortable doing home exercise videos or exercise video games (like tennis or bowling). These can be good options, but it's important to do daily moderate to strong activities too.
And all teens should limit the time spent in sedentary activities, including watching TV, playing video games, and using computers, smartphones, or tablets.
When to Speak With Your Doctor
If you're concerned about your teen's fitness, speak with your doctor. Teens who are overweight or very sedentary might need to start slowly. The doctor may be able to help you make a fitness plan or recommend local programs.
Teens with a chronic health condition or disability should not be excluded from fitness activities. Some activities may need to be changed or adapted, and some may be too risky depending on the condition. Talk to your doctor about which activities are safe for your child.
Some teens may overdo it when it comes to fitness. Young athletes may try performance-enhancing substances. Teens involved in gymnastics, wrestling, or dance may face pressures to lose weight. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns.
Finally, speak with your doctor if your teen complains of pain during or after sports and exercise.
Fitness for Everyone
Everyone can benefit from being physically fit. Staying fit can help improve academic performance, build confidence, prevent obesity, and decrease the risk of serious illnesses (such as heart disease and diabetes). And regular physical activity can help teens learn to meet the physical and emotional challenges they face every day.
Help your teen commit to fitness by being a positive role model and exercising regularly too. For fitness activities you can enjoy together, try after-dinner walks or family hikes, bike rides, playing tennis, going to a local swimming pool, or shooting baskets. You'll work together to reach your fitness goals, and stay connected with your teen.