One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Exercise & Teens

by Angela Yorke | February 16th, 2012 | Family Fitness

Exercising with your family is easy enough when children are young. They haven’t developed the inertia induced by watching TV, being online, and/or playing video/computer games for hours on end, and they do what you tell them. For most parents, the challenge is when children hit their teens, especially if the idea of working out together has just been introduced.

When was the last time you saw a teenager working out with his or her parents? There’s a boy in my neighborhood who runs with his parents every evening, but he’s an exception. He’s also in his early teens, so I guess he’ll eventually seek out running partners who are closer to his age. His parents will feel somewhat aggrieved and abandoned, but that’s growing up. On the bright side, he’s already aware of the importance of staying fit.

What if a teen has no plans to embark on a fitness routine at all? Threats and military-style scheduling won’t change this mindset. In this case, it would be a good idea to explain why being and staying active is a good idea. No one likes being lectured though, so keep the advice short and simple, but frequent.

Perhaps a teen is reluctant to follow your workout routine due to a self-perceived lack of competence. Rather than tell your daughter she has to run with you before school each day (which would probably be doomed to failure), find out what she’s interested in, and suggest something that she feels she would be good at that also takes into account her fitness levels, and build on that.

Alternatively, try to expand an activity that a teen is already carrying out as part of their daily routine. For example, if walking to and from the bus stop each day takes 15 minutes each way, then the teenager would already have fulfilled the daily-recommended duration of physical activity. Walking at a faster pace can be used to build on this. Similarly, the duration the teen spends walking can be increased gradually to meet a fitness goal, which makes exercise appear more manageable and enjoyable.

You can also make it easier to exercise at home, if that is preferred, such as with basic exercise equipment or DVDs. It also pays to set a good example yourself. After all, “do as I say, not as I do” only works for so long.

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All health and fitness information is provided for educational purposes. Please consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.