5 Tips to Get Teens Moving

Teen Exercise


If you’re like many parents, you sometimes look at your pre-teen/teen and think, “Who are you?”

When kids are young, they’re unstoppable. Remember the toddler days, falling into the couch after spending the 12 hours chasing a two-year old? Children are balls of energy, wanting to dance, roller blade, bike ride after a long day at school.  They can’t get enough of you!

Then middle school hits, and it’s almost as if children were unplugged or a sci-fi energy sucker came and zapped the life out of them. Take a few minutes this week and watch the way middle schoolers and high schoolers move. Slow.

Before, you were begging to slow down. Now you have to sift through piles of dirty clothes to even find your teen – usually sleeping, or near-coma-sleep-stage, lying in bed, listening to music. The funky smell is either from the laundry, body odor, or plates with crusted-on food tucked under the bed.

Once, not long ago, you were the light of your child’s life. Now you’re an embarrassment and, more often than not, the bane of her existence. You are not alone, and neither is your teen. Teenagers’ brains and bodies are going through surges of change that wreak havoc on them and, in turn, their families. In Zits, Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman nail adolescence in an uncanny reflection of every teen dying of boredom and inertia.

And in all this, you still worry about your teen’s nutrition and health, wanting to keep her active, moving, and in shape for more than just pizza lifting. Psychology Today discusses a 2014 study of World War II veterans that found “the single strongest predictor of well-being in later life was whether someone played a varsity sport in high school.”

Times have changed. With the rise of competitive sports, traveling teams, and the pressure to win, being part of a varsity team is a lot harder than before. Unfortunately, there seems to be a cut off for teens to get involved in sports “for fun”. This is both frustrating and limiting, as the draw of high school sports is both social (a big deal for teens) and physical. There are positive ways, though, to motivate your teen to get moving!

As a certified personal trainer in New York City, many parents come to me exasperated, wondering how to motivate their teens to move. Here are my 5 tips to keep teens active and exercising:

  • Teen ExerciseDon’t Dismiss Pokemon GO! Be creative! Physical activity doesn’t have to be “directed” or in a group. As much as people make fun of these new games and apps, they actually get teens moving and active! Also, the Wii or dance video games are ways to marry technology and movement. Geocaching is another creative, get out and go activity. Movement matters, and as long as your teen’s heart rate increases, she is doing physical activity.
  • Make Health a Family Matter: It’s easy to be an armchair coach. The strongest model for behavior in your teen’s life is you. Instead of telling your kid to get moving, make movement part of the family. Walk to the post office or library. Make a bicycle the only available means of transportation for a month (for the entire family). If it’s under a mile, it’s walkable (weather permitting). These little shifts make a big difference in the long run. But it won’t work if you’re not part of the change.
  • Understand the Intimidation Factor: Kids bodies are changing and growing, are disproportionate, and can even hurt and ache during growth spurts. Add crippling self-doubt and being self-conscious, and many teens won’t be willing to try new things. Talk to your teen about why he doesn’t like to exercise and brainstorm solutions together. He simply might be embarrassed about starting an activity with others. Make your teen part of the decision-making process. You might be surprised at what buying comfortable workout clothes or finding the right activity could do.
  • Accentuate the Positive: Right now your teen’s life is filled with negative. It’s just part of the hormone ride. Don’t focus on weight or appearance, instead health. Maybe the “activity” your teen needs is doing volunteer work at the YMCA or local Boy’s and Girl’s Club, or working with animals at the local shelter. Though it’s not an exercise regime, it’s getting your teen moving and helping her sift through all those negative feelings.
  • Don’t despair! If you’re active, have healthy food choices at home, and find small ways for your family to be active – whether it be by walking the dog, weeding the garden, walking to the store, going to a craft show, walking in a museum, or riding a bike – your kids will be okay! Teenagers are going through oodles of changes, and their bodies and hormones are raging. Sometimes they just need space to find themselves … under the piles of filthy clothes on the bed in the bedroom.

These 5 tips to get teens active and exercising won’t necessarily show results in a day; however, over time, small changes make big differences. I can’t promise you’ll enjoy the teen years, but with a little perspective and increased activity, you’ll both survive each other!