Exercising improves both mental and physical health, and yet it is incredibly easy to stay sedentary in today’s world. Conveniences such as remote work and school, food delivery services, and screen-time pastimes can dramatically reduce the time we spend on our feet, leading to far less actual movement or exertion.
For that reason, getting up and moving is a critical part of staying healthy, now more than ever, no matter how old you are. Developing healthy habits in the impressionable teen years leads to greater health and satisfaction in the short term while setting up habits that can last well into adulthood.
How much exercise do teenagers need?
According to the CDC, children aged 6 through 17 need about an hour of moderate to high intensity exercise daily.
Kids who exercise tend to have stronger bones and muscles, as well as healthier body fat compositions.
Youth who exercise also tend to experience a lower incidence of depression. Exercise can take the form of sports play, aerobic exercise such as walking or roller skating, or strength training.
Still, only 25% of American teens reach this recommendation. If this seems like a tall order, the minimum recommendation is 30 minutes of exercise, three times per week.
That’s quite a difference from the recommended amount, and it’s easy to imagine that the closer you are to the hour per day recommendation, the better your results will be. It’s possible, however to take this “more is better” attitude too far.
What types of exercise are good for teens?
A good exercise program for anyone includes elements of cardio, strength, and mobility work. This is also true for teens.
Many people wonder if it’s safe for teens to lift weights. In general, the answer is yes, so long as they are working with a weight that is not too heavy. In general, the goal for strength training in the teen years should be to focus on form, using lower weights and higher reps, rather than trying to lift the heaviest weight possible.
If sports are a large part of a teenager’s life, agility training may also be included as a part of an ideal program. This type of training enhances quickness and reaction time and includes exercises that train balance and power, and even offer a cognitive challenge. While a large portion of a teen’s exercise program should be fairly high energy, there is also abundant evidence that mind-body exercises such as yoga can reduce anxiety and improve mental health in both healthy kids and those facing mental health challenges.