Exercise and Teens
Teens Need More Exercise
The medical community has been sounding the alarm: America's kids are in worse physical shape than they were 20 years ago. This is particularly appalling since overweight teens often grow into overweight adults, and overweight adults develop more heart disease, diabetes, gout, and arthritis. The New England Journal of Medicine reported that obese teenagers in the top 25 percent of their weight categories have twice the death rate in their 70s as men and women who were thin as teens.
Every time our teens sprawl in front of the TV, their metabolism slows to a crawl. Researchers at Memphis State University and the University of Tennessee explored the link several years ago and were startled to find that kids' metabolisms were lower while they were watching television than when they were resting and doing nothing at all! The typical teen now spends almost 30 hours a week in front of the tube, while eating high-fat snacks.
Who's going to step in and prod teens off those cushy couches? That's right: It's up to us, as parents, to help them find ways of living a healthy lifestyle. But where do we start?
Great Exercises for Teens
Aerobic exercise is perfect for teens who are independent and like variety. Some possibilities include running, in-line skating, cycling, swimming, power- or race-walking, tennis, full-court basketball, aerobic dancing, kick-boxing, Tae Bo, hockey, soccer, rowing, elliptical trainer, cross-country skiing, jumping rope, racquetball, handball, ice-skating, and trampoline.
The American Heart Association suggests that teens raise their heart rates for 20 minutes without stopping, three or more times a week. Reassure your teen that aerobic exercise, when done correctly, shouldn't resemble running timed laps in gym class, when many kids feel like their lungs are ready to burst and their legs are on fire. This isn't about "no pain, no gain" it's about choosing fun physical fitness activities that also make you sweat and breathe a little harder.
Exercise should never hurt, although a little muscle soreness can be expected, especially in the initial weeks of a workout program. Be sure your teen knows the importance of stretching and warming up. And keep in mind that out-of-shape kids should start out slowly, since they are more prone to serious injury if they do too much too soon.
Ten Arguments for Exercising
Teens are great at coming up with reasons not to exercise, so be ready to give them incentives to get fit. Here are 10 pro-exercise arguments to present to your teen:
10. Running and walking are convenient. All you have to do is walk out the door and put one foot in front of the other. No need for pools, courts, or fields.
9. Running doesn't cost much. Splurge on good running shoes, but go the el-cheapo route for shorts, t-shirts, and sweats.
8. Your heart becomes more efficient at pumping blood and oxygen through your body every time you exercise aerobically. You'll think more clearly. You'll also raise HDL levels (high density lipoprotein) in your arteries to protect you from heart attacks and strokes when you get really old -- like in your 40s and 50s!
7. It's an awesome time to chat with friends. (And talking slows your pace, so you'll exercise longer.)
6. It's a perfect time to be alone and think. You'll be blown away by the creative thoughts -- ideas for research papers, ways to end that fight with your best friend, and what to say to that cute kid in the neighborhood.
5. The benefits of cross-training extend to all sports you do. Aerobic exercise conditions your body to perform longer, faster, and more efficiently. Wait until your coach sees you play soccer or baseball!
4. The more exercise you do, the more energy you'll have for hours afterwards. Your body will kick into overdrive after a few weeks of conditioning and you will feel more energized than you ever have before.
3. It makes you feel great physically. The progress is truly dramatic! Every time you work out, your muscles develop strength and power. Your lungs hold mega amounts of oxygen. You'll find that you're staring at yourself in full-length mirrors because you look AWESOME! Forget about dieting: Your metabolism will burn extra fat for hours afterwards.
2. It makes you feel good mentally. Not everyone has the discipline and ability to set a goal and reach it with slow, steady and hard work.
1. Aerobic exercise, especially running, can help make feelings of depression and frustration disappear. After 20 or more minutes of continuous slow running, your body releases powerful hormones (called endorphins) that start pumping through your bloodstream, producing a strong "runner's high" that does wonders for your self-esteem.
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