Teens and Physical Activity
Physical activity is good for the body and the mind. Regular exercise helps maintain weight, builds muscle, strengthens bones, and boosts "good" cholesterol levels. Team or individual sports help a person to set goals, improve self-discipline, build self-esteem, reduce stress, and develop social skills.
- Nearly half of teens ages 12-21 years are not vigorously active on a regular basis.
- The number of overweight teens in America is increasing because they don't get enough exercise.
- Overweight teens are more likely to be overweight adults, which makes them more likely to develop heart disease and high blood pressure.
- Teens who are physically active have higher self-esteem and experience less anxiety and depression than inactive youth.
- Even during physical education classes, students often spend more time standing around than exercising.
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Tips for Parents
- Health experts recommend that all teens be active every day as part of play, sports, work, transportation, gym class, or planned exercise. Three or more times each week, teens should do something that requires moderate to high levels of exertion for 20 minutes or more. This may include jogging, brisk walking, swimming, skating, aerobic dance, tennis, and full-court basketball.
- Play it safe. Is there a safe place for your teen to be active near home? If not, find a youth organization or recreation league that offers activities your teen enjoys. Also, encourage your teen to use protective sports gear such as a bike helmet or eyewear.
- Be an active role model. Don't be a "do as I say, not as I do" parent. Show your commitment to better health by being active and exercising regularly (walking, swimming, doing yard work, dancing, etc.).
- Create family time. The former surgeon general, Dr. C. Everett Koop, advises families to turn off the television and make physical activity a family affair. Ride bikes, hike, walk, play basketball, or do yard work together as a family.
- Show support. Help your teen practice and attend his or her games. Praise his or her achievements. Get involved with school or community programs-coach a team, referee an event, or chaperone a sports-related trip.
- Explore the options. Competitive sports may not be for everyone. Intramural and community recreation programs put more emphasis on having fun than on winning and help young people develop athletic and social skills.
- Encourage your teen to do activities he or she truly enjoys-like dancing, biking, tennis, swimming, golf, or jogging-and can continue throughout his or her lifetime. Because many activities are seasonal, encourage your teen to take part in a variety of activities year-round.
- Check your attitude. Don't put pressure on your teen to win. Much of the fun is taken out of sports when teens are taught that "winning is everything."
- Be informed. Talk with your teen's school principal and physical education teachers.
- Be aware. A teen's concern about his or her athletic ability may sometimes lead to problems. For example, teens who are involved in activities that require weight management (such as ballet, wrestling, and gymnastics) may be at a greater risk for the eating disorders anorexia nervosa (self-starvation) or bulimia (binge and purge). Some teens use steroids to build muscle or improve their athletic ability. These are potentially life-threatening behaviors.
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Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
Your teen's health care provider.
Adolescent Health On-Line.
Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General.
Physical Activity for Young People: Tips for Parents from the CDC.
National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.