Bad news. Not only are teenagers not eating as well as in generations past, they’re exercising less, too.
Promoting Physical Activity In Teens: Three Tricks
“This is another way growing up has really changed,” says Dr. Cara Natterson, a pediatrician and author of the popular American Girl series, The Care and Keeping of You. “When we were growing up, we got exercise all day, everyday. We walked to our friends’ houses, or we rode our bikes around the neighborhood. Physical activity was part of our day in the way it’s not for most teenagers today.”
Over-scheduling, for starters. Instead of hanging around the neighborhood, most middle class teenagers are in organized programs or extracurricular activities. Screens are another issue. Sure, we had television—lots of it—but we couldn’t take screens with us. Some recent statistics suggest that adolescents use screens up to eight hours a day.
Here are three ways to build in more physical activity in your teenager’s day.
1) Sign up.
Parents need to proactively schedule physical activity for their teenagers, Natterson explains. “That’s annoying for some parents and off-putting for some adolescents because it interferes with their independence building, but you’ve got to do it.”
Shoot for 60 minutes a day, but not necessarily all at once. “The goal is to move,” Natterson says. “It can be done in one chunk or broken up throughout the day. But, right now, three-quarters of kids don’t get that.”
That doesn’t mean you need to sign your teenager up for the track team. Just as with eating, there are many ways to encourage healthy movement. Consider joining a gym, taking a class, or letting your teenager walk to school. Even a video game can do the trick.
And, don’t assume your teens are set if they’re in organized sports. Plenty of teenage athletes tend to stop exercising once their sport’s eight- or ten-week season ends. Or, the sport may not involve much moving around (think: baseball or softball).
2) Assign Housework.
Or, you could take a more practical approach. “Have the teens take over household and yard chores that require physical activity,” says Corey Jamison, a mom of six teenagers in Albany, New York. “One of our sons walks the three dogs we have after school each day to earn his allowance. We have backyard chickens, so there’s always shoveling, carrying and repairing of coop work. The teens take care of the pool in the summer and help with the yard and gardening.”
3) Model, model, model.
Finally, as with healthy eating, modeling fitness is key for raising healthy teens. “If your children see you running, they’ll think, ‘Wow, Mom’s going running and she’s taking care of herself,” Natterson explains. “What’s best for your kids is for you to take care of yourself.”