Physical activity is good for the body and the mind. Regular exercise helps maintain weight, build muscle, strengthens bones and boost "good" cholesterol levels. Team or individual sports help a person set goals, improve self-discipline, build self-esteem, reduce stress and develop social skills.
- Nearly half of U.S. teens do not attend a physical education class during the average week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Nearly 21 percent of U.S. children ages 12 to 19 are obese.
- Overweight teens are more likely to be overweight adults, increasing their risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
- Physically active teens have higher self-esteem and experience less anxiety and depression than inactive youth.
Tips for Parents
- Know the current activity recommendations. Health experts, including the CDC, recommend that children and teens ages 6 to 17 get 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day. This means something requiring moderate to high exertion, such as jogging, brisk walking, skating, aerobic exercise, tennis, soccer or full-court basketball. Activities should also include muscle and bone strengthening activities, such as using weights and resistance bands or doing sit-ups and pull-ups.
- Play it safe. Is there a safe place for your teen to be active near home? If not, find a youth organization or recreation league that offers activities your teen enjoys. Many schools also offer after-school sports programs. Encourage your teen to use protective sports gear, such as a bike helmet or eyewear.
- Be an active role model. Show your commitment to better health by being active and exercising regularly (walking, swimming, doing yard work, dancing, etc.). Power down the TV or cell phones and ride bikes, hike, walk, play basketball or do yard work together.
- Show support. Help your teen practice. Attend their games. Praise achievements. Get involved with school or community programs: coach a team, referee an event or chaperone a sports-related trip.
- Encourage your teen to do lifelong activities they truly enjoy, like dancing, biking, tennis, swimming, golf or jogging. Many activities are seasonal, so support a variety of activities year-round.
- Explore options. Competitive sports may not be for everyone. Intramural and community recreation programs help young people develop athletic and social skills and emphasize having fun.
- Check your attitude. Don’t put pressure on your teen to win. Hearing that “winning is everything” takes much of the fun out of sports.
- Monitor caffeine. Many teens drink caffeinated beverages, including energy drinks, to boost athletic performance, but drinking too much caffeine can cause side effects, including dehydration, fast heart rate, anxiety and insomnia. If your teen drinks caffeine, talk to your pediatrician about how much is reasonable for them.
- Be informed and aware. Talk with your teen’s school principal and physical education teachers. A teen’s concern about athletic ability may lead to problems. For example, teens who are involved in activities that require weight management, such as ballet, wrestling and gymnastics, may be at a greater risk for eating disorders. Some teens use steroids to build muscle or improve their athletic ability. These can be life-threatening behaviors.
Reviewed by: Matthew Ryan, MAed, ATC, PTA
Last reviewed: November 2019