A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Helping your teen stay active

Teenagers in a recreation room playing foosball

Active play is important for kids of all ages. Activity may not do much to help with your teen’s attitude, but moving around does help build strong muscles and bones and helps them maintain a healthy weight.

To help ease the inevitable eye-rolls and push-backs here are some tips to get your teen moving.

Find out their interests

Find out what your teen likes to do—besides TV, surfing the web and video games–then help them do it. It’s good for teens (and parents!) to get at least 60 minutes or more of activity every day, but it doesn’t have to be in one period of time. The time can be broken up throughout the day. If the weather’s bad or you’re worried about safety, find indoor activities for your teen to try.

Limit screen time

There’s a reason “binge-watching” was added to the Oxford dictionary in 2014. Everybody’s doing it. But, it’s time to stop. Limit screen time–either TV or computer–to 1 to 2 hours a day. If your teen has a TV or computer in their bedroom, you may want to think about moving it to a common area in the house so you can monitor usage. And don’t forget about those mobile devices. If your teen spends a lot of time watching, streaming or gaming on their mobile device, that should be counted against their screen time as well.

Set some goals

Don’t lay down the law. Instead, work with your teen to set reasonable goals for activity. Then make sure your kids follow through. And reward them when they do. To get started track your teen’s active time each day. To contrast, also track time spent on TV, computer, video games and mobile devices. (Homework time on the computer shouldn’t count against them). Then set goals for more active time and less screen time. Start with small changes, such as 15 minutes less screen time and more activity each day and work up to bigger goals each week.

Look around you for support

Getting exercise doesn’t have to be fancy. Any activity or sport will do. But, if you are out of ideas, look into programs offered by the YMCA. Boys & Girls Clubs, local youth groups, local parks and recreation departments or your child’s school. Chances are they have done their research and are offering programs that meet the needs and desires of today’s teens. And if cost is a concern, many of these resources offer low-cost or free programs.

Stay involved

Don’t forget to ask your child about their activities and what they are doing at their friends’ houses. Encourage being active instead of vegging out on the couch and share your ideas with other parents. Better yet, if they’ll allow you, try planning an outing for your teen, a few friends, and yourself. Spend an afternoon hiking or at a rock-climbing wall. Or visit a museum or shopping mall. Walking is still great exercise.

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