A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Tips to help teens start exercising

Two teens ride bikes with their parents: Are teenagers getting enough exercise?

Most teens don’t get enough exercise. Bicycling instead of driving to activities is one way teens can get active.

Teens aren’t getting enough exercise.

Only about 10 percent get the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity, according to a study published in Pediatrics.

Screen time makes it easy for teens, even young athletes in their off-seasons, to fall into a sedentary lifestyle. Electronic activities are available 24/7. Besides TV and video games, they can binge-watch shows and videos and spend hours on social media using smartphones.

If this sounds like your teen, take an active role in helping him or her get moving.

Teens benefit from exercise

“A pattern of inactivity leads to loss of muscle mass and increased fat storage,” said Dr. Suzanne Wright, a Marshfield Clinic pediatrician. “Exercise helps maintain heart health, weight and improve muscle tone.”

Physical activity also reduces stress, which is great for teens’ mental health.

“Teens may not be motivated by the long-term benefits of exercise such as preventing diabetes, heart attacks and strokes,” Wright said. “Remind them of the more immediate benefits like having more energy, feeling happier and being less stressed.”

Finding exercises they enjoy will help teens build lifelong habits.

Tips for developing an exercise habit

Getting kids off the couch may require more than just a little encouragement. Try these tips to motivate your teen:

1. Use technology. Teens who enjoy video games may like virtual reality exercise bikes at some gyms or dance video games. Fitness trackers, like the Fitbit, linked to smartphone apps may motivate teens to out-step family and friends.

2. Exercise with your teen. Being a healthy role model for teens is great, but exercising with them is even better. Plan active family outings, walk the dog together, or bring your teen to the gym or your favorite fitness class for some one-on-one time.

“Exercising together is good for the parent-child relationship,” Wright said. “Teens may be more likely to talk to you when they’re engaged in an activity.”

3. Walk or bike instead of drive. Have teens walk or bike to friends’ houses when weather is nice instead of driving them. Plan walks or bike rides that include the whole family.

4. Do physical work. Ask teens to do physical work like shoveling snow or raking leaves. They’ll multitask by exercising and contributing to the household. A part-time job on a maintenance crew or stocking store shelves gives older teens a chance to earn their own money and stay active.

5. Use rewards. Outings with friends and chances to earn items on their wish lists are good incentives to get active. Rewards may be especially helpful to encourage teens to try and continue new activities.

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