They say a healthy mind resides in a healthy body. With the growing incidence of childhood obesity worldwide, your child needs to be physically active. The American Heart Association recommends that teens get at least 60 to 90 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day. In today’s digital world, it can be hard to get your kids to put down their devices and get involved in sports and physical activity. However, with a little effort and some innovative ideas, kids can be taught healthy eating and exercising habits.
- Practice what you preach. Be a role model. Start moving more yourself and find ways to be active together as a family. You may plan a bicycle ride together, a hiking trip or put on some music and indulge in a family dance session.
- Physical activity should be fun for teenagers. Encourage teens to keep trying activities to discover the ones they like and continue doing them. This includes natural trail hikes, walks along the beach, aerobic dance sessions, skipping, etc. Don’t use physical activity as a punishment.
- Provide teens with opportunities to be active. Give them active toys and games, such as bikes, skateboards, roller skates, scooters, jump ropes, balls and sports equipment.
- Support their participation when they participate in sports, dance and other active recreation (swimming, biking and running). Get familiar with community facilities near you, such as pools, recreation centers, bike paths and parks.
- When safe, let them walk or bike places instead of always driving them in the car. For example, you could walk or bike to school or the bus stop together.
- If your child hates activity, start slow. You may take them to cycle for 30 minutes a day and gradually increase the amount and intensity every week. This helps them avoid discomfort or injury and adjust to a more active lifestyle without getting discouraged.
- Praise, rewards and encouragement help teens to stay active. Even small steps in the right direction should be acknowledged and praised.
- Reduce or limit the screen time for everyone in the family. This includes watching television, playing video games and using a digital device.
- Make family outings a regular activity. Schedule a time for your children to go outdoors, such as after school. Also, consider visiting the playground every weekend. Find what your teen enjoys and stick to it.
- Exercise can be a touchy topic if your teen is overweight or simply reluctant to leave their desk or couch. Parents should emphasize physical activity as one element of a healthy lifestyle that also includes nutritious eating habits. Don’t stress exercise as a way to change body type or reach a weight target.
- If your studious teen worries that exercise will take too much time away from her studies, remind her that exercise boosts brain health and is good for their eyes and back.
- Exercise and physical activity should not hurt. If it becomes painful, your child should slow down or try a less vigorous activity. As with any activity, it is important not to overdo it. If exercise starts to interfere with school or other activities, talk with your child's doctor.
- Be safe! Always provide protective equipment, such as helmets, wrist pads or knee guards, for activities (for example, riding bicycles and scooters, skateboarding, roller skating, rock-wall climbing and other activities) where there may be a high risk of injuries. Ensure also that activities are appropriate for the age of your child.
According to recent studies and research, teenagers may need more moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity each day, including daily aerobic activities, which strengthen bones and promote muscle building. This may include walking, running, jogging, swimming, playing sports and skating.
- Your child can practice climbing or do push-ups at least three days per week as part of the daily 60 minutes of activity.
- Your child could do activities, such as jumping, skipping or running, at least three days per week as part of the child’s daily 60 minutes of activity.
Exercise and a balanced diet provide the foundation for a healthy, active life. One of the most important things parents can do is to encourage healthy habits in their children early in life. It is never too late to start. Ask your child's doctor about tools for healthy living today.
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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Move Your Way: "Help Your Kids Get More Physical Activity." https://health.gov/moveyourway/get-kids-active
Raising Children Network (Australia): "Physical Activity for Pre-Teens and Teenagers." https://raisingchildren.net.au/teens/healthy-lifestyle/physical-activity/physical-activity-teens