“Many kids are also coming home as both parents may not have gotten home yet from work,” Harrison said. “The result, oftentimes, is gaming on computers and watching TV, which is often accompanied by unhealthy snacking.”
Experts say this lack of movement is worrisome, and not just from a weight perspective. In addition to improving your heart, muscle, bone and metabolic health, regular exercise helps improve coordination and agility, and the resulting increased blood flow is good for the brain as well.
“Studies have shown that children involved in daily physical activity generally perform better with attention and focus, which translates to better academic performance,” she said. It also helps in controlling impulses and managing emotions better.
Ways to enhance physical activity
How do you make your teenager sweat? While it can often be challenging, there are many ways to bring more physical activity into children’s lives.
Make movement a fun social experience
“Focus on the fun,” Harrison said. “For most children, having fun is a necessary component.” This is the social aspect. “Studies have shown that the number one reason for most adults to start and continue an exercise program is the social component,” she said. “Children are the same.”
Consider organized sports
Organized sports are good at helping teens build social bonds and teach perseverance and teamwork. But some programs focus more on winning and less on skill development. If your teen is eager to master a particular sport, a competitive program may be a great fit. But teens who play organized sports for fun and socializing may prefer a less competitive environment.
Be aware that coaches play a big role in the team’s activity level,” said Jennifer Agnes, assistant professor in the Penn State Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism Management in University Park, Pennsylvania. Some practice less active training, as players may spend a lot of time listening to instructions or waiting in line to take their turn for basketball shooting drills.
Think outside the box
Not all kids will enjoy organized sports, especially if they are not competitive. But maybe they enjoy rock climbing, skateboarding, or performing arts. “My entry point was the youth circus, and the trapeze is an increasingly youthful activity today,” said Agnes.
Exercise does not mean exercise strictly. Housework burns calories, for example, so assign your kids the age-appropriate ones that require the most movement. Consider mowing the lawn or vacuuming versus a flick or drying dishes. Another good option is another good option, Harrison said, as gardening includes planting, watering, weeding, and more.
Contests can also enhance activity. Challenge your teen to see who can run the fastest, do the most sitting exercises or walk the most steps each day or week. Use small gifts as a reward. And don’t overlook volunteer work, which often involves a lot of movement. Maybe they can take part in a driveway building event or help someone with packing and moving boxes.
Get in touch with your teen
If your teens suddenly don’t show any interest in an activity they normally enjoy, sit down to talk. Perhaps their lack of interest in swimming was because they were suddenly embarrassed to see them in a swimsuit, Agnes said. Or maybe they want to quit football because a new teammate is making fun of them, or they don’t have a teammate this year.
“Personal restrictions like this can prevent people from doing the activities they love to do,” she said, so don’t assume your teen has suddenly lost motivation to move. Something else could happen.
Point out the positives
“Kids can learn to be excited to move around,” Agnes said. “We need to put them on a path where they have a basis for enjoying the movement that will get them looking for activity as young people.”