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Physical Activity for Children and Teens - Tips for Helping Your Teen

Teens sometimes need encouragement to get active. You can help motivate your teen by setting an example.

If regular exercise is a normal part of family life, teens may see it as natural to start or keep exercising. Household chores count as physical activity too. Talk with your teen about the physical benefits of exercise, such as improved mood or energy level.

Competitive sports

Although competitive sports are a great way for teens to be physically active while they learn valuable social skills, be aware that sports are not for everyone.

  • Focus on things that your teen enjoys doing, whether it's competitive or noncompetitive sports or personal fitness activities (such as jogging, yoga, or cycling).
  • Some teens may prefer individual sports like karate, gymnastics, and swimming rather than group sports like soccer and baseball.

Help your teen avoid competition that stresses winning over everything else, including sportsmanship and schoolwork.

Avoiding injuries

Many sports require repeated movements or require that bones repeatedly bear weight. Overuse injuries occur from stressing the joints, muscles, or other tissues and not letting them recover.

The growing bones of young athletes may not be able to handle as much stress as the mature bones of adults. Repeated stress on the body may lead to irritation, inflammation, stress fractures, or other conditions. For example, a swimmer may get a rotator cuff injury because he or she doesn't realize that fatigue or poor performance is a sign of overuse.

Teens who take part in endurance events, year-round sports, or weekend tournaments, and teens who diet to stay at a certain weight for a sport (such as gymnastics or wrestling) are also at risk for injuries. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting one sport to no more than 5 days a week, with at least 1 day off each week from any organized physical activity. Also, the AAP suggests that athletes have at least 2 to 3 months off each year from their particular sport.3

Anyone who does too much activity without the right conditioning is at risk for injury. Be sure young athletes get enough rest and nutrition.

Some teens think protein powders or shakes are a nutritious snack that can help build muscle. They may cause harm and cost a lot. If your teen wants to try one, talk to his or her doctor first.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: September 26, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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