Get Off the Phone!

Because teenagers need exercise, too.

You know kids need time each day spent running around to get their energy out. You know adults need regular exercise to keep their heart healthy and to burn calories. But it’s easy to overlook the role exercise plays in the life of a teenager. They may be busy with homework, after-school clubs, texting, and scrolling through social media, but if they’re not moving their bodies regularly, they’re missing out on the many benefits offered by exercise.

Current recommendations encourage teens to spend at least an hour a day being physically active for weight control, disease prevention, stress relief, confidence, and energy.

If you’re a parent of a teenager whose thumbs are the only part of body that are in shape, here are a few tips to help motivate that teen to adopt a more active lifestyle.

Talk It Through

There are reasons teens avoids exercise. Maybe they’re too busy, are embarrassed by their weight or fitness level, or don’t have proper workout clothes and shoes, but chances are they’re just lazy. Instead of criticizing your teen, telling her she’s overweight, or forcing her to exercise, begin by talking it through. Ask why she doesn’t want to exercise and offer helpful solutions. In your daily conversations gently remind her of the physical, psychological, and emotional benefits that come with exercise.

Think Outside the Box

Brainstorm workout options that sound enjoyable. There may be options your teen has never considered, but he just needs a little encouragement in the right direction to get started. Maybe your son isn’t the athletic type and won’t make the football team, but he may be enjoy golfing, archery, or weight lifting. Your daughter may not want to run back and forth down a soccer field, but she may enjoy yoga classes, ice-skating, or dance. The goal is to get your teen moving on a regular basis.

Join In

Teens are more likely to listen to adults who practice what they preach. If they see their parents dedicated to exercise and reaping the benefits, they may be more motivated to hop on the bandwagon and get in the gym also. Be a role model for your teenager of what a healthy lifestyle looks like.

Exercising together is a great way to spend quality time together. Plan a family hike in the woods, challenge your teen to a game of basketball or tennis, sign up together for a 5K, or get competitive as you both work towards a specific fitness goal. And no matter what, never skip your scheduled meetings with your personal trainer!

Limit Screen Time

As the parent, you have the authority to limit the amount of time your teenager spends on screens. An hour or two a day is plenty. If the honor system isn’t consistent, it may be time to invest in a device or app that allows parents to remotely set time limits on iPhones, iPods, and iPads. Teens act like they hate boundaries, but they need them desperately.

Without a screen to stare at, teens may be more likely to engage in activities that involve physical activity.

Praise and Reward

The times your teen comes out of her room and gets active, be sure to take note and praise her. Avoid praising your teen for weight loss. Rather, praise her for her accomplishments and efforts. She may not act like your attention matters, but it does more than you’ll know.

When nothing else seems to be working to motivate your teen to exercise, it may be time to offer rewards for engaging in physical activity. Help with the yard work? Pay him an allowance. Work out five days a week? Get a movie night with friends. Exercise consistently for a month? Get new workout clothes or shoes. Or maybe the future reward of a fitness tracker would motivate you kids to train and run in a 5K race.