No teen is doomed to be overweight. A 2010 European study showed that even teenagers with gene-linked obesity are able to overcome it by exercising for 60 minutes a day. For the teens in the study who exercised regularly, it paid off in lower body fat, a lower body mass index (BMI), and a smaller waist.
But an hour of exercise a day can seem like a lot. If your overweight teenager is not physically active or is self-conscious about her body, it may feel overwhelming.
That's where you, the parent, come in. You can help your teen get moving and work up to 60 minutes of exercise a day. The key is to start off small and provide plenty of role modeling and support along the way.
Here are five tips to help you help your teen ease into exercise and stay motivated so that she can feel the benefits.
Teen Fitness Tip 1: Build Slowly
Kids who aren't used to exercising may only be willing to tolerate a little physical activity before wanting to quit. So start with small steps, such as a 10-minute walk every day after school. (If the thought of exercising every day seems overwhelming to him, start off with walking every other day.) Add a minute more of walking each time, and have him track his progress.
Setting small goals like this is important with kids. Seeing the minutes add up can help boost their motivation. You might also set up a contract with him that offers rewards for racking up more minutes.
Little successes will also build your child's self-confidence and encourage him to make exercise a part of his life. Praise and encourage him for any positive steps he takes toward being healthier.
Teen Fitness Tip 2: Make Screen Time Count
All the time your teen spends in front of a TV or computer is time he or she is not being active. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours a day of watching TV or playing video or computer games. So work together to set house rules on screen time.
And when your family does spend time in front of the screen, try these things:
Build in a little exercise. See who can do the most push-ups or leg lifts during commercial breaks, or schedule activity breaks from gaming.
Be a role model. Even if your teen is reluctant to hit the floor during TV time, she will notice if you do. Routinely do some crunches or other exercises while watching TV. Or keep small dumbbells and elastic bands in a box next to the TV to use during commercials or shows. This fitness-oriented approach to TV time may motivate her to follow.