When we think of our youth and adolescence—the younger years—we usually think of all the time we had to do various things, especially time for play and games. Bike riding, playing ball with the neighbors, or other active indoor and outdoor activities were often part of our daily lives. Have times changed? Only one in four children meet the recommended amount of daily physical activity—60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. This puts most of our teens at risk for poor health physically and mentally.
Disease Starts Early
Heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and other health problems are usually considered “adult” diseases. However, a growing body of research points to childhood and adolescence as being the prime years for better health.
In fact, their fitness now can affect their health over three decades later. If they develop a habit now, it will be easier to carry it on into adult years. Physical activity plays a major role in the cardiorespiratory, muscular, metabolic, and bone health of our youth. A new Swedish study found that those who are aerobically fit as teenagers have a reduced risk of heart attack in middle age. Why not help our youth develop a healthy bones, lungs, muscles, and joints now?
Mental benefits? According to the CDC, physical activity is associated with better academic performance, including better grades and academic achievement, better academic behaviors such as timeliness on tasks, and better concentration and attentiveness in class. Additionally, exercise can help reduce or prevent symptoms of anxiety, depress, or stress—feelings more and more adolescents are prone to.
Physical Activity is not a Chore
Physical activity gives youth opportunities to socially interact, to build confidence, to practice self-expression.
Is there anything parents, guardians, educators, neighbors, and fellow members of the community can do to encourage a progressive increase in activity? There are multiple ways and opportunities to encourage more physical activity for adolescents regardless of the setting—family, social, or community.
- If you’re a parent, you may want to take the time to observe the physical activity habits of your child. Can you make time to engage in physical activity with your children? Can you encourage more activity after school hours, such as after-school sports or dance classes.
- Physical activity for young people should be more than just planned exercise. It can include games, sports, chores, recreation, transportation, and physical education at school.
- The “all-at-once” approach may not work. If 60 minutes cannot be completed all at once, consider multiple shorter bouts of exercise spread throughout the day. They all add up!
- Remember: doing less than 60 minutes is better than doing nothing at all.
- Vary the workout to avoid boredom.
- Fuel workouts with 100% natural ingredients that provide the protein needed to repair and strengthen muscle tissue. EnergyFirst’s ProEnergy Protein Shakes are great for fueling workouts, snacks, or post-workout recovery drinks.