Teenagers need Regular Exercise for Health and Wellness
I am very interested in this subject because I am a teacher and I know that teenagers who eat well and take regular exercise perform better at school. There is absolutely no doubt about that. I’ve seen it time and again and there has been a lot of research done on this subject. Some kids are full of energy and are happy at school with an active interest in all it has to offer but others are the exact opposite.
I have just started home schooling my teenage son and one of the things we are doing is stepping up on the amount of exercise we do each day.
You may be surprised to learn that kids spend most of their school days sitting in chairs. Here in the UK they only have 15 minutes break in the morning that actually means that they are sitting from about 8.30 to 12.30 every morning! And when they get older, afternoon breaks no longer apply because as teens they don’t actually play. In the UK boys do play football when they’re given the opportunity, but teenage girls just sit around.
My son doesn’t like football so he used to sit around all day at school apart from one 2-hour games lesson a week. Now we’re up and walking and swimming, and he is really enjoying it.
Kids become sluggish and miserable if they are too sedentary and they even start to lose interest in their schoolwork. They seem to lose interest in all that surrounds them.
To make matters worse, these are kids who typically skip breakfast and eat junk all day. I remember one 14-year-old boy came to school with one of his big back teeth in his hand, he told me it had just fallen out! Another time a kid was holding a brown paper bag and in it was his breakfast, which consisted of a fried egg on top of lots of brightly coloured sweets. I kid you not!
These are the children who will tell you that they hate any form of exercise.
What can you do?
Teens are constantly looking for role models. They want to know that they are on the right track and they want to be accepted. They need reassurance and support from adults they trust and a safe place where they can make the kind of mistakes that don’t have frightening consequences and from which they can learn. This is how they build up experiences and life skills. You are their biggest role model and their safety net.
As parents or carers it is important that we motivate ourselves because we cannot expect our teens to be active if we’re not. So what I am advocating may mean a change for you too.
Here are some easy to implement tips and ideas:
- Let your kids see that you are exercising and that you are taking care of yourself by eating well and not smoking.
- The hardest change to make will be to cut the time they spend on the computer or in front of the TV. One of the easiest ways to do this is by giving them something else to do. Turning off the screen will just make them cross and even bored.
- Make exercising fun by doing the things they enjoy. Any sort of activity is good.
- On cold and rainy days it’s great to push away the furniture put on some music and dance.
- Go to places where you need to walk, like museums, the zoo, or the park.
- On sunny days get out to the park and play games. Invite friends and play football, tug of war, rounders, baseball. If you introduce an element of competition and they’ll be happy. If you join in they will too. Just don’t take no for an answer!
- Make sure you take the kids out into the fresh air. Shopping centres or the mall are not good places in this respect.
- Mini golf is a great game. There are golf courses in larger parks. Look out for them. They’re not expensive either.
- Swimming is fun but remember that teens get very self-conscious, so this activity may be something just for the family.
- Use birthdays and Christmas as an opportunity to buy presents that are fitness based, new skates, skipping ropes, mini-trampoline, hula-hoop, a skateboard, bike, something that will make them move about or jump.
- Get them involved with helping you around the house. You don’t have to make this boring. You could do it to music for example. Washing the car, hanging out the clothes. All these things are exercise.
- Ditch the car and walk whenever you can. A trip to the local shops, to church, school, or work. Walking will give you more energy and make you all stronger.
- A big craze here in the UK at the moment is dog walking. Offer to walk a neighbour’s dog for a fee. In London people pay up to £20 per walk!!
- Take advantage of clubs and after school activities because they will be cheaper and easier to organize. Get involved in them.
Just because they look ‘all grown up’ and sometimes are ‘very sensible’ doesn’t mean that they don’t need an adult to help them to keep fit and healthy.
Emotional support is very important too. Give them some space but think of their safety too – make sure they’re not spending all their time in groups just hanging, that really isn’t very good for their self-esteem. They quickly get bored, and the devil will find work for idle hands!
The happiest teens are those with plenty to do, lots to eat, good friends, time to sleep and have loving adults who care about them – they are not old enough to be left to their own devices no matter what they think!