Don’t Be a Couch Potato!

Video games, TV, and the computer are magnets for adolescents, understandably. But, these technologies are all sitting-down activities. A recent study even suggested that a youth’s metabolism is actually slower while watching TV than when sitting still and doing nothing. Along with healthy eating and good sleep patterns, physical activity is a vital part of keeping our bodies fit and strong. Teens must develop healthy habits now that will continue into their adulthood. Exercise is one of those important aspects of a healthy life.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that teens get sixty minutes of moderate exercise each day. Teens who are on a sports team may very well be meeting this goal between practices and games, but teens not participating in extracurricular activities may need to be more creative. Moderate exercise can include a variety of activities including a brisk walk with the dog, in-line skating, cycling, swimming, tennis, full-court basketball, dancing, horseback-riding, kick-boxing, hockey, soccer, rowing, cross-country skiing, jumping rope, racquetball, ice-skating, and jumping on a trampoline. The point is that many of these activities are enjoyable and fun, so we just need to encourage youth to engage in some activities away from their favorite technology.

One way adults can encourage positive physical activity is to explain the benefits. Studies have proven that exercise reduces anxiety and stress, improves self-esteem, boosts academic performance, helps manage weight and controls blood pressure, and builds muscles. Exercise also improves our energy levels and our moods.

Parents have a particularly big impact on their children’s activity level. Following are some tips for helping your teen establish a good exercise habit.

  • Be a good role model. Typically, parents who are physically active tend to have kids who are active, too. Make time for exercise in your daily life and find family fitness activities to share. Plan biking, hiking or camping trips for the family. Get a family membership at the gym and spend time together there.
  • Support your teen’s athletic endeavors. Become involved with sports by coaching or being an active spectator. (If equipment costs and team fees are prohibitive, talk with the coach or school guidance counselor about scholarships and sources for used gear.)
  • Celebrate your teen’s achievements. Allow your teen to go at their own pace and let them know how well they are doing. Go to their games and display their trophies – they will notice.
  • Encourage your teen to explore the world of sports. While soccer may work for one child, it may not appeal at all to another. Every child is different and your teen will have his or her own set of likes and dislikes. There are so many different kinds of exercise available (listed above) – they are bound to find something they love with a little encouragement.
  • If all else fails, add mowing the lawn, raking leaves or washing the car to their chores list!

And don’t forget to remind your kids that it takes a balance of good food, exercise and sleep to truly be healthy. You can visit with your teens to help them learn lots of information on how to get fit.

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