Spring is here and it's a great time for kids, teens, and adults to get outside and start exercising. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that young people between 6 and 17 years old get at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.
Teens & Exercise
Many teens easily meet this recommended amount of physical activity by participating in youth sports. But teens do not need to be involved in organized sports to reap the benefits of physical activity. And even teen athletes should develop a lifestyle that includes exercise beyond their sport, since most will not play past high school.
Tara Cousineau, PhD, Founder and CEO of BodiMojo.com, says, “Physical activity every day is like a vitamin for overall health. Basic physical activity will rev up the heart, boost mood and build confidence over time.” Some teens may be resistant at first feeling like they lack time to exercise due to other obligations. But some fresh air and exercise—even in short 10-20 minute increments—will help teens stay better focused on their studies and also sleep better at night.
Of course, many teens and adults exercise primarily because they want to look better or be thinner, etc. Consineau says, “There is the reality of body shape that is front and center in the teen years. Teens need to understand early on that the will likely inherit the body shape of biological family members of which they have little control. However, parents can help them understand that being healthy/fit/beautiful is about taking care of the body they were born with through a healthful diet, exercise, and self-care—of which they have total control.”
Benefits of Exercise
The benefits of regular exercise are beyond skin deep. Obviously exercise can improve outward appearance but it also has many other inner health benefits. According to the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance research studies have found that daily physical activity is associated with:
- Increased health-related fitness.
- Improvements in cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk profiles.
- Decreased risk of developing type II diabetes in childhood and adulthood.
- Boosts in bone health and development.
- Improvements in mental health and well-being.
- Improvements in cognitive and academic performance.
- Betterments in motor control and physical functioning.
It is important to make physical activity a part of a teen’s daily routine. Some teens may enjoy solitary exercise such as running or bike riding. Others prefer to workout with their peers. Many communities, teen centers, and gyms now offer teen-centric exercise classes (teen boot camp, teen spinning, teen yoga, etc.) geared specifically toward young student cliental—especially in the summer.
Teen-Centric Exercise Classes
"Exercise classes such as teen boot camps and teen yoga fill a formerly underserved need for exercise experiences which boost self esteem, support personal reflection, and encourage mindful movement without the pressure and judgment on performance and peer comparison and competition. Team sports, while they certainly play an important part in motivating excellence, fostering competition and cooperation among peers, they are no longer the only options. Teen yoga in particular can be a welcome part of an otherwise hectic and rushed day. Breathing, visualization and meditation techniques are invaluable tools not just for children, but also for all of us," says Joy Fay of Melrose Boot Camp in Melrose, MA.
Finding a “workout buddy” can help teens stay committed to an activity and also increase the fun factor. Remember, that buddy can be a sibling and/or parent. Playing tennis or going for a hike on the weekends is a great way for families to spend time together and stay fit. Even shooting hoops for 20 minutes after dinner or going for a walk is beneficial. The more parents themselves can model healthy eating and fitness, the better.