It comes as no surprise to many of us that physical activity declines with age. Long commutes, desk jobs, and family responsibilities can get in the way of a healthy exercise routine. However, sedentary lifestyles aren’t necessarily limited to adults.
While many of us think of youths as leading a more active lifestyle, trends are changing across the United States. These days, most teenagers are just as inactive as 60-year-old adults. This can lead to a whole host of health complications both as young adults and later in life.
Teenagers need to follow current physical activity recommendations if they want to succeed at school and beyond. Parents, teachers, and teens themselves should be aware of fitness guidelines to follow for a happier and healthier lifestyle.
Why Aren’t Teens Active?
The main reason that so many teens today don’t get enough exercise is their lifestyle. Teens have a lot to juggle each day, from school and homework to socializing to part-time jobs. As a result, many simply don’t have the time to fit an exercise routine into their busy schedule.
As technology advances, teenagers are also spending more free time behind screens. Whether texting their friend or browsing social media, the average teen spends around nine hours a day using or watching screens. Unfortunately, this takes away from the time they could exercise, play sports, or simply explore with friends.
The Benefits of Physical Activity
Regular physical activity is a critical part of healthy development in children of all ages. In teenagers, however, the focus is less on coordination and muscle development. Instead, exercise helps teens maintain a healthy weight and prevent health conditions such as type II diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Staying active can also work wonders for a teenager’s mental health. Adolescence is often a time of great emotional turmoil and fluctuating hormones, but regular exercise can help to keep everything in balance. Active teens are often more energetic, more focused, and less susceptible to anxiety or depression. Regular exercise can also help to improve sleep patterns.
Daily Recommendations for Teenagers
Experts recommend that teenagers get at least an hour of moderate to vigorous activity every day of the week. Parents and teachers can help teens meet their daily mark by offering plenty of opportunities to engage in fun and age-appropriate activities.
For teens, most of their activity each day should be aerobic. It gets the heart pumping and the blood flowing, ensuring that their growing body gets all of the nutrients that it needs. Engaging in aerobic activity is also one of the best ways to regulate weight. While it can be tempting to target only problem areas, full-body cardio is the best weight loss solution for most teens.
Moderate aerobic activity includes things such as walking, swimming, and even yard work like mowing the lawn. Teens should also aim to engage in vigorous-intensity activity at least three times a week, such as running, cycling, or playing high-impact sports.
It can even be as simple as a pickup game of basketball at the local park or visiting a local field to play some soccer. There are infinite possibilities outside but knowing the area around your home is important to get the most out of potential exercises.
For instance, a high school or college stadium can offer a track for running and other activities like lunges. However, it also has bleachers, which can be a great way to improve upon the benefits of running by running up and down in predetermined sets.
While strength training isn’t as important for teens as aerobic exercise, it’s still vital to any workout routine. Exercises help teens build up their adult strength, stamina, and muscle tone. Working the muscles improves flexibility and balance while reducing the risk of joint pain and injuries.
Teens can use free weights for strength training, but they should always have an adult spotter on hand in case of accidents. Bodyweight training exercises such as yoga and Pilates are also effective and may be a safer option for some teens.
Though older teens are close to their adult size, their bones are still in the process of forming. Bone-strengthening exercises place a small amount of force on bones to promote healthy growth and greater strength.
Many weight-lifting moves strengthen bones in addition to muscles. Exercises that place weight on the limbs, such as climbing stairs or doing jumping jacks, also help improve bone health in teenagers.
Physical activity is a key cornerstone of development leading into adulthood. But, unfortunately, many teens these days aren’t meeting activity recommendations, leading to both physical and mental health problems down the line.
Knowing physical activity guidelines for their age group is the first step towards helping teens ditch a sedentary lifestyle. By following expert recommendations, teenagers can take control of their health and take their first step down the road towards lifelong success.