Fitness and nutrition may not seem like exciting subjects to most teens, but good health in younger years goes a long way toward a longer and healthier life in adulthood. It's important to get teens talking about nutrition and good eating habits. Make sure they know that calcium, for example, is vital to strong bones and healthy, white teeth; young people may relate to nutrition and fitness conversations when related to their appearance.
Fitness Chalk Talk
Teens should get at least 60 minutes of vigorous exercise each day, or at least most days, of the week, according to the American Heart Association, or AHA. The AHA reports that regular physical activity helps to maintain a healthy weight, control blood pressure and cholesterol, helps to prevent diabetes and boosts self-confidence and self-esteem. The AHA also recommends that if you can't arrange for 30 continuous minutes of exercise, break it up into two 30-minute periods or four 15-minute periods of physical activity. While it's important to stress the importance of exercise, you should make it fun for kids, advises the AHA. Dance and intramural or club sports are provide teens with fitness opportunities if they don't have physical education classes during the week or play a sport for their high school.
The Unhealthy Side
Talk to your teen about health issues that often arise during the adolescent years to get it out in the open and understand the importance of healthy eating and fitness. Obesity in young people, along with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, have rightly received a lot of attention. The conditions not only adversely affect physical health but can lead to emotional distress. In many cases, eating disorders and overeating are the result of problems such as depression and personality disorders. But the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, or AACAP, reports that among the top causes of obesity are simply overeating and poor eating habits.
Eat Right, Get Healthy
Teens should be getting five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and if they can get into the habit of substituting nutritious and low-fat foods like apples and carrots for fattening snacks and desserts, they'll soon see a change in their weight, energy level and mood. The AACAP recommends including teens in the shopping for groceries and the preparation of meals to reinforce the importance of nutrition. The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that, in addition to psychological counseling, nutritional counseling is vital to helping teens with anorexia or bulimia develop a realistic understanding of normal hunger patterns, healthy eating and body image.
One of the most often overlooked aspects of teen health is sufficient sleep. Insufficient sleep leads to changes in metabolism that affect hunger and weight gain. Poor sleep also deprives the body of the energy needed to participate in sports, dance and even paying attention in school. The National Sleep Foundation reports that teens need between 8 1/2 and 9 1/2 hours of sleep a night, yet it's estimated that only 15 percent of teens get that much. Even though it may be difficult to go to bed earlier, try to start your teen's nighttime ritual earlier and avoid computer or television time right before bed, because that can stimulate the brain and make it harder to get to sleep.