Years ago (pre-cell phone, tablet, I-Pad, computer age) there was an assumption that you were pretty much fit if you were a teenager. Now however, teen obesity is on the rise. In 1980 only 5% of the teenage population aged 12-19 years old were considered to be obese. In 2015 13.9% of the highschool teen population alone was obese with another 16% considered to be overweight.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommend “Children and adolescents should have 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity daily”. If the activity is aerobic it should be of a moderate to vigorous intensity. The 1 hour a day should include muscle strengthening for at least 3 days out of the week and bone strengthening for 3 days out of the week.
Keeping our teenagers enthusiastic about physical activity is crucial to their physiological, emotional and mental success. Given what we know about the benefits of fitness it is important to give them as much support as we, the parents, can possibly give.
THINGS YOU CAN DO AS A PARENT:
1- Make Fitness FUN!
Encourage your child to join a sports team, ski, skate or tennis club. Sports are the easiest way to get your teen to want to do something physical. There are many benefits in joining an organized sports team. Your teen will improve in areas like: self-esteem, cooperation, communication, overcoming challenges, team building strategies and create new social circles.
If your teen doesn’t like team sports or would prefer to do something on their own you might want to try: golf, swimming, hiking, biking or dancing. Every Friday afternoon over a winter I invited my son’s friends (girls and boys) to come and compete in our “Digital Dance Party” where everyone had a chance to take the stage (our family room) by storm, learn new dance moves, get ranked by their peers and impress the neighbors.
2- Create a Community
Whether your teen is involved in a team sport or not you can do a lot to support your child’s fitness level by encouraging them to develop a support network. If there is an anticipation or expectation that everyone will be working out at some point in their day, it’s more likely that your child will think this is their “norm” too. Set up days and times that your teen will be walking on the track and have her post it on her social network. Create themed days for walking or jogging like “Today is Wear Your Neon” Day, “Bring Your Dog Day” or raise funds for a local charity by collecting a small donation for your 5 mile walk.
Regardless of what or where your teen gets physical activity they will be more successful if they have a great role model. Share your story, very often our teens forget that we were once teens too and may have struggled either with our weight or self-esteem when we were their age. Telling them about your successes and your passion for a sport or activity may make all the difference in how they view fitness. Make sure your teen can see you working out and invite them to your Zumba class or train with your trainer. You may also want to practice their sport with them and let them teach you what they know too. Let them see that physical fitness isn’t just about logging steps, winning, getting “buff” or burning calories. It’s about sharing time with your friends, family and enjoying an activity together.
THINGS YOU CAN DO AS A TEEN
1- Schedule your workouts
It’s easy to get caught up in gaming, texting or watching television. Very often we say we will do something only to realize that yet another day has slipped by without our workout. By “booking” an appointment with yourself you will guarantee yourself you will have the time to workout.
2- Decide what you LOVE.
Try out all kinds of physical activities and then make some choices. Try a yoga class, join a hiking club or teen bootcamp (usually at a YMCA). Decide what you can’t wait to do workout-wise and make that your priority. Once you’ve tried several types of workouts and made some decisions about what gets you motivated, schedule a variety over a week. So your schedule may look like: Monday- Zumba, Tuesday- Walk the track, Wednesday- Bootcamp class, Thursday- Golf etc.
3- Set goals
If you are new to working out, set small goals. For instance, walk for 15 minutes in the beginning and work your way up to 1 hour. If you feel weak after lifting weights for 20 minutes stop and change to a cardio exercise while letting the blood to return to those hard working muscles but return and try to last for another 20 minutes. Keep a workout log and put a star on the workouts that lasted the longest or got you to your goal. Competing against yourself, your last time or reps or score is a healthy way of challenging yourself without pressure from your peers.
4- Get help if you need it
If you are interested in learning how to lift weights or play golf, consider getting a few lessons on the practice. There’s nothing worse than loving an activity but not improving, getting results or get injured in the process. A professional with experience can help you clarify your goals, give you guidance for best practices and help you prevent injury.
5- Acknowledge your accomplishments!!
Celebrate a big win with your team. High five your weight loss goal with a manicure or weight gain goal with a movie. Be conscious of people who have the same goals that you do and who wants to see you winning and surround yourself with those people.
I have never heard anyone say “Jeeze, I wish I wasn’t so fit.” or “Wow it stinks that I just lost 5 pounds!” Or “Crap I got a hole in one!” When you are a teen, getting your goal can be the very best way to appreciate who you are and what you are capable of accomplishing. Discover what you love and go for it! You will never regret your efforts.