Tips to increase your teen's physical activitiy
Less than 50 percent of teenagers today meet physical activity recommendations.
July 7, 2016 - Author: Xi Chen, Michigan State University and Lamia Dhan, MSU Extension Intern
With reports like this one showing that less than 50 percent of American teenagers today meet physical activity recommendations, many of our youth are facing present and future health and behavioral risks. Because reform on the school level is slow to change, we’ve come up with some fun and awesome strategies to make exercising and eating right easier.
Understanding the Consequences of Low Physical Activity
Exercise and physical activity is vital to weight control, muscle development, and endorphin release. The fact is, lack of physical activity leads to a much higher risk for depression, mood swings, anger, academic struggles and major health problems later in life, like as diabetes and heart disease – none of which are anything we would wish on our youth. To understand why our youth at risk, let us look for a moment to the past.
So how did we get here? Why has physical activity in children and teens declined at an alarming rate since the mid-1990s? Unfortunately, many school systems have gone to optional gym time, instead of having dedicated, mandatory exercise programs and requirements. This needs to change, and some school systems across the world have already laid the HYPERLINK "http://www.childtrends.org/?programs=school-based-cardiovascular-exercise-and-nutrition-program-with-parent-participation"ground work for us to follow in their foot steps towards creating strengthened physical activity and nutrition programs for adolescents. If we are to make a real difference in the lives of our youth, we can’t wait for long term change to slowly trickle through our school systems – it is important to realize that we should step in and try to help on the home front as well.
Michigan State University Extension recommends: three things to try after school and on weekends!
Getting out in nature
No matter where you live, most towns and cities have some kind of park, sidewalk system, or even nature trails. Establishments such as zoos and aquariums often span a large chunk of land, with lots of winding paths and areas to explore. Whether you go with your teen as a bonding event or encourage them to go with friends, they will experience multiple health benefits from getting out and about such as weight control, endorphin release and an improved mood.
Joining a class or club not offered at school
Having your child or teen join a dance class or athletic self-defense class is a fantastic way to boost physical activity and encourage valuable life experience for your teen. They will learn to push themselves physically and mentally, reaping health benefits as well as mental ones.
If you are unsure where to start looking for such classes for your child, there are a few things you can do to start the search:
- Try asking other parents who are local if they know of any such classes.
- Google it! For example, “karate class Ann Arbor, MI” brings up several results.
- Driving around and really paying attention to what business fronts are on every corner can be eye-opening and fun.
- Try checking out the community boards at local coffees shops and restaurants – they will often lead to extracurricular offerings.
Go for a swim
Water aerobics is incredibly easy on the joints and burns a lot of calories. Plus, it’s fun! Even if you live in a place with long winters, you can still enjoy the water by getting a YMCA membership for you and your child. Whether they go with friends or with the whole family, they’ll be exercising and probably won’t even notice because of how much fun they will be having!
Following these tips and crafting your own exercise goals with your teen are a great start towards a more physically active adulthood.