Parents often look back fondly on those simple days when they used to play catch with their son or those golden times when their daughter would chase them around the yard playing hide-and-seek for hours.
Now those children are teenagers, camped out on the couch, in their room, or in the den, glued to a video game or their cell phones. They’re getting no exercise, and they’re moody. What happened to your sweet-natured, active kiddos?
Exercise Benefits for Teens
You want the best for your child. You want them to reach their full potential in all facets of life, including physical health. You don’t want your child to turn into an adult saddled with paying expensive premiums on life insurance for overweight individuals.
A lack of exercise in teens could lead to obesity, high blood pressure, and abnormal cholesterol levels. Being sedentary at a young age also establishes poor lifestyle choices, which could lead to heart attacks and strokes down the road.
Teens should have at least one hour of physical activity on most days to stay fit and in good health. This physical activity should be moderate to vigorous.
A few examples include:
- Walking briskly
- Roller skating
- In-line skating
- Jumping rope
- Playing on the playground
- Dancing (TikTok, anyone?)
Your adolescent also needs exercise to enhance cardiorespiratory fitness, build strong bones and muscles, and control weight.
Teenagers could also especially use exercise to help balance their wildly fluctuating hormones and mood swings. They are doing themselves a favor by exercising since it releases the brain chemicals of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which regulate your mood.
Exercise can help people who have mild depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety. And what teenager have you ever known — including yourself — who has not suffered anxiety?
They can also get better sleep if they’re regularly exercising. With the pressures of school, friends, jobs, social media, most teens don’t get as much sleep as they should. However, daily exercise means the sleep they do get will be of better quality.
How can you help your teen exercise?
Getting your teen to take a break from playing Fortnite with their friends won’t be easy. But here are some tips to help establish good exercise habits that will lay the foundation for a healthy adult.
Check Out a Variety of Workouts
It’s time for you to explore your options. What workouts are available in your area? What activities are available at school? What do other parents do to get their teens moving? Reach out to your friends, family, neighbors, and even colleagues for their advice.
Friends and family could be a good first step to get some ideas. But talk up some pros, too, like coaches and personal trainers at gyms. They can fine-tune the initial advice you’ve received.
If your teen is already overweight and very sedentary, check in with a doctor. They can advise you on the best way to start your teen exercising. As you know, if they take on too much too soon, it could result in overwhelming your teen to the point of shutting down about any exercise at all. Working out too hard too quickly could also lead to an injury.
People love to give advice, and this is an easy topic with a variety of options. You may be pleasantly surprised to find you are not alone with your dilemma. Whatever information you find out, it will be helpful to you to gain confidence in your goal of motivating your teen to exercise and maybe even create a support team!
Once you do find something, then you can consider incorporating your teen’s devices.
Use Apps to Encourage Movement
Don’t make your teen ditch his screen entirely: They actually may respond more to activity if they can customize it and control it. Many health clubs, gyms, and personal trainers such as the YMCA and Fit Factory are using apps to help track performance.
Yes, an exercise app initially seems counterproductive since it will increase screen time. However, allowing your teen to have control over his activity can be a good thing; in fact, he could make a game out of it.
Teach Your Teen to Work Hard, Play Hard
There’s a good piece of advice out there on how dads can deal with difficult teens — approach your kids like a coach. This makes perfect sense when you’re trying to motivate your teen to move off the couch.
Provide support. And provide rewards that match their efforts. Allow them special privileges if they exercise for at least an hour a day. Come up with a system that best fits your family and your teen’s interests.
Parents Lead by Example
Don’t be one of those parents who spend nearly the same amount of time every day with their kid as they do on their phone — about 24 minutes more a day with your own flesh and blood than a device.
Remember one of the golden rules of parenting: be a good role model. Set a good example for your son. Do you have an exercise routine? If you do, do you present it in a positive light or treat it like a chore? If you don’t, are you willing to adopt a new routine?
Even better, what about a father-son workout? Your son could join you in what you do. Or you may learn and love something new by sweating alongside him in something he likes to do!
Exercise with Your Teen
If you want to go straight into exercise mode at home, set up an interval-training station. Do push-ups, jump squats, lunges, and burpees. You can go first, then your son can follow your leads. That way, you can have your rest interval.
You can also keep an eye on how each other is doing and give motivation and advice on how to have good form. Weather, space, and social-distancing permitting, you could take it outside and do a backyard workout circuit. Who knows, maybe you will inspire your neighbors!
If you have a basketball hoop in your driveway gathering dust, shoot some hoops for a cardio workout. If you don’t have a hoop at home, check out a nearby park. The walk there and back will be a good opportunity to warm up, cool down, and get in a few extra moments of quality time.
If your budget can handle fitness purchases, buy some bikes and head out for a ride or even join a bike club. If your son would like to focus on building strength and gaining muscle, try weight lifting/resistance training.
Remember to include variety. The last thing you want to do is bore your teenager!
Don’t Give Up in Encouraging Exercise
Don’t let your teen’s round-the-clock sighs and eye rolls turn you into a defeatist. Don’t forget how resourceful parents are. Remember how you snuck healthy ingredients into your kids’ favorite foods? Maybe you mixed veggies into their hamburger meat or added wheat germ to their chocolate chip and banana muffins. They didn’t realize they were eating something good for them.
Apply the same principle to physical activity. Does your teen love travel and nature? Take day trips to national parks and check out the gorgeous scenery with a hike.
Do they love music? Research their favorite bands to see what performers have actively healthy hobbies. The workout routines of movie stars and famous musicians are easy to find, and teens love to imitate their idols.
Maybe your teen isn’t a marathon runner, or they aren’t willing to make the commitment to a team sport. What about centering exercise for a clearer mind? You have to start somewhere. There’s Aikido, spiritual martial-art, self-defense, or even practical exercises to try.
Sometimes what’s best in life takes creativity and hard work. But in the end, your teen will thank you for teaching them the importance of staying physically active.
This content is brought to you by Karen Condor who is a writer, editor, and researcher with the life insurance comparison site, EffortlessInsurance.com.