Encouraging teens to get active

I’ve been working with a client and his son recently, and in discussing the challenges of eating well and everyday life, this single dad says the biggest hurdle is when he’s not around due to work his son spends all day playing ‘nofrendo’ games.

I thought it was funny, but it’s also sad. Today’s teens have access to more video games and other technology than ever before and that keeps them away from the great outdoors and off the basketball court. Instead of moving their growing bodies, they spend hours pushing buttons, texting friends and playing video games. 
But if exercise isn’t a regular part of your teen’s life, big trouble could be right down the road. Why should your teen get into the exercise routine, and how can you make it happen? Friends, take a look around at teens. They have countless social media tools that are supposed to help them be more connected with others than ever. Unfortunately, these social sites can cause teens to forget how to socialize with real people in real life. Get these kids to the gym and encourage them to exercise with other teens, and you give them an instant lesson in socialization. Exercise is about far more than socialization of course, but it can be one component used to help them get going in the right direction. Everyone has heard that the obesity epidemic exists in adults, and it is hitting teens hard too. The incidence of teenage diabetes is rising at an alarming rate.

We pretty much know all of this, so the big question remains: how do we get them moving? Sometimes getting a teenager to do something is as easy as teaching a rhinoceros to fetch. Don’t let their attitude get you down. Remember your own attitude problems as a teenager, take a deep breath, and prepare to stand your ground. When you’re going into battle with your teen, try these tips out.

Make it fun and relevant. Remember when your teen was a toddler? Exercise wasn’t something you forced him or her to do. It just happened, via hide-and-seek, tag, or just running all day long. It may be tough, but find what physical activities interest your teens, and encourage him or her to get out and do it. Here’s the thing I find really ironic: lots of teens today, especially boys, like to play games like Call of Duty, or World of Warcraft – the ironic thing is, should any one of those games somehow become real, the kids playing them are so out of shape, they would never survive. So how can you turn that to your favour? Get your kids involved in something that plays to that skill set. Paint ball or laser tag will have your teen running, ducking, moving and using their body, while playing a game that is relevant to them. Team sports at school can be great, but some teens like to be solo. There are also plenty of sports for individuals at school, you just have to look.

Do it together. If your child isn’t motivated to get in the gym on his or her own, offer to do it together. Whether you lift weights, ride bikes, play hockey, swim, or hike, doing it as a family makes it easier to keep your teen on an exercise schedule. We have an indoor rock climbing facility, and climbing with your teen cannot only be fun and a great workout, but can build trust as you hold their rope, and in turn, they hold yours. Work with a trainer together, and watch your teen be stunned at how much you have in common while struggling with a tough exercise, or be impressed by how strong you are, or vice versa.

Take it easy. Your teen needs to exercise, there is no question about it. Just don’t let this need override your parenting know-how. Ever tried to force your teen to do something he or she didn’t want to do? Didn’t work so well, did it? Remember this when working with your teen, and encourage your teen gently. You may be surprised at the end result.

How much? While medical experts normally recommend adults get 30 minutes of exercise five or more days a week, the same doesn’t hold true for teenagers. Instead, try to get your teen to exercise for at least 60 minutes most days of the week. It doesn’t have to be incredibly vigorous, they just need to move.

Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake. He can be reached at 403-887-7667 or check out www.personaltrainersylvanlake.com for more information.

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