How to help teens enjoy exercise

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.tennis

By age 15, the majority of teens don’t meet the 60 minutes of daily exercise the Department of Health and Human Services recommends, says a new study the July 16 Journal of the American Medical Association.

“Lack of physical activity in childhood raises the risk for obesity and its attendant health problems later in life,” said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), in an NIH press release. “Helping American children maintain appropriate activity levels is a major public health goal requiring immediate action.”

With all the recent publicity regarding the “obesity epidemic” in children, their risk of diabetes, heart disease and the recommendation of cholesterol lowering medicine in some, Dr. Alexander’s statement seems timely. But what can parents do? There are several options, actually.

  • Encourage active hobbies. Some are fortunate enough to like running, biking, gym work.
  • Encourage participation in school sports as early as possible. Your child has fun, gets exercise, and builds teamwork skills and self-esteem.
  • Get the whole family to exercise (bring friends). You can go on hikes, swim, play tennis, golf (no carts), water or snow ski. Everyone gets in on the exercise and the social interaction.

How do you encourage? Get involved yourself. Don’t make a fuss about providing transportation to events and practices; be a spectator; be interested and ask how they are doing; get in on home practices; join local support groups; give positive feedback. This is part of your job as a parent. It should be a priority. You will have fond memories all of your life. The only way teens will exercise regularly is if they like it. Help them to like it.

Our article “Find Your Passion: 54 fun ways to get your exercise” has lots of fun exercise ideas. I’m sure you also have tips on this. Please share below.

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