How to motivate your teen to exercise

If you’re a parent of a teenager, you know how frustrating it is to see a smartphone as an extension of your child. Some experts suggest that social media can be as addictive as alcohol and cigarettes. The good news is that physical exercise can be equally addictive, and unlike screen time all day, exercising is healthy for them. Here’s how to motivate your teen to get moving.

Start them young

Other than for obvious reasons - such as maintaining a healthy weight, creating strong muscles and bones, and decreasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes - staying active can help teens improve their academic performance and build confidence. This self-esteem boost can equip them to deal with the physical and emotional challenges they will face. Instilling these values at a young age will set teens up to be healthier and happier later on in life.

Overcoming the obstacles

Your teen is lazy: Weren’t we all to some extent? Your teenager might only tolerate a little bit of physical activity before wanting to quit. The best way to work with these types of teens is to start small.  Maybe all you will get out of your teen is a quick bike ride or walk before they start to complain. Build on this. Every time they go out, have them add an extra two minutes. With some luck and perseverance, that walking might even turn into running.

Your teen isn't interested in team sports: That doesn’t mean that they can’t still be physically active. I own a gym, teach fitness and exercise daily, and team sports were never my thing. The goal is to get your teenager moving, and help them to find something they enjoy. Keep it simple to start.

Focus on performance, not aesthetics: Naturally, young girls and boys are going to want to “look good,” but we need to highlight the importance of feeling good. Teaching our teens to set performance goals rather than purely aesthetic goals is much more rewarding. For beginners, these goals should be simple, such as jogging around the block without stopping or going on long walks and/or bike rides. In any case, the more they exercise, the fitter they will become; therefore, once a performance goal is met, aesthetic goals will surely follow. It's a win-win scenario.

Help teens to be comfortable in their own bodies: Ask your teenager this: If we took everyone in the world and fed them all the exact same diet and did the exact same fitness routine, would everyone look the same? The answer is absolutely not. We are all unique individuals, and our genes determine things beyond our control. As mentioned earlier, teens that are physically active are going to have improved self-esteem. The higher their self-esteem is, the more comfortable they will feel about their body size and shape.

Be careful with your language: Try not to use words such as fat or skinny. Instead, try using healthy and unhealthy. Teens have enough social pressure on them to be and look a certain way, and. we shouldn't be adding to that. Teenage girls especially can often get wrapped up in being thin. Using words like lean and muscular over skinny or tiny can help give teens a “strong not skinny” mentality.

Surround your teenager with healthy diet choices: If you choose to have unhealthy food in your house at all times, then expect your teens to develop unhealthy eating habits. There is absolutely nothing wrong with treating yourself, but there is also nothing wrong with working for that treat. If they want something other than what you have to offer them, they can walk to the store for it. But surrounding your teens with a variety of nutrient-rich, healthy food at home is going to teach them how to fuel their bodies rather than satisfy a craving.

Give them an outlet: Teens are bound to be emotional, and they can become overwhelmingly stressed. From exams to dating to family drama, knowing that they can ‘sweat it out’ at the end of the day through exercise will help them cope better. Teens need about 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity 3x per week. (Think: not being able to text and or carry on a conversation at length during the chosen activity)

Make them work for their screen time: As parents, unless it is for educational purposes, we are under zero obligation to provide internet services to our children. The technology we provide them with should be seen as a luxury. Why not leverage their ‘screen time’ with how much physical activity they do in a day? I can imagine parents right now throwing their arms up in the air and scoffing “yeah right” – but there’s no time like the present, right?

Last by certainly not least, we as parents need to be the example. It should go without saying that this is the best and the easiest thing we can do for our kids. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, then this is the example you have set. You shouldn’t expect from others what you are not willing to do yourself. “Do as I say, not as I do” isn’t going to fly. This could be an opportune time to find some mode of exercise you could do together! Bottom line, practice what you preach.

Jennifer Slauenwhite is a Fitness Professional and a Mother of two with a passion for health and overall well-being. She has spent her entire life in the fitness industry through many family owned and operated fitness centres and has spent the last decade cultivating a community of strong like-minded women. She strives to set an example for women to be the best they can be by channeling their inner athlete and putting up some healthy competition against themselves! #leadbyexample

Jennifer Slauenwhite is a paid spokesperson of Sonnet Insurance.
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