A teen with a muffin top may be especially self-conscious about her appearance. Extra belly fat also puts a young 14-year-old at risk to develop risk factors for adult conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Losing stomach fat requires changing habits, which can be challenging. The good news is that this new lifestyle will help your teen manage her weight and health for life.
A teen just starting to exercise can start small. He doesn't have to get right into a 60-minute session. Ten to 15 minutes a day — for a couple of weeks — spent riding his bike or running around the block will get him used to physical movement.
Movement Does Matter
A 14-year-old who leads a sedentary lifestyle is more likely to hold onto belly fat. A review published in the May 2013 issue of The Physician and Sports Medicine notes that strong evidence exists that aerobic exercise can decrease waist size, body fat and belly fat in adolescents. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends a minimum of 60 minutes per day of physical activity — most of which should be aerobic activity.
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At first, 60 minutes per day may seem like a lot, especially if unaccustomed to this much movement, so ease into exercise gradually. Start with just 10 to 15 minutes per day and gradually increase the amount of time you commit to exercise over several weeks.
Running and riding a bike are common activities a 14-year-old can do easily to get active, but participation in team sports, walking the dog or joining a dance class also count. Parents can encourage activity by inviting their 14-year-old on walks or having her join them in a fitness class at the local recreation center or gym.
Read more: Why Is Exercise Important to Teenagers?
Become a Stronger You
A 14-year-old might not be ready to hoist big barbells, but he can participate in strengthening exercises that improve muscle mass and bone density. Simple calisthenics, such as pushups and pull-ups, are sufficient for teens. A weight-training program under the guidance of a trainer or coach may be appropriate for some teens. The more muscle a 14-year-old builds, the more calories he burns daily, making weight loss easier, especially around the stomach.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Simple dietary alterations can help a 14-year-old shrink her belly. Instead of deprivation and meal skipping, encourage healthy eating habits. Include more fresh vegetables while reduce consumption of processed snack foods such as chips, snack mixes, cereal bars and sweets. Teach a 14-year-old to opt for grilled or baked meats rather than fried versions and to choose a side salad or broth-based soup instead of fries or onion rings.
Encourage her to pack a healthy lunch for school and to consume a nutritious breakfast every day: Sandwiches on whole grain bread filled with lean meats, low-fat yogurt, fresh fruit, oatmeal, whole-grain cereal, low-fat cheese and cut-up veggies are healthy choices. Encourage consumption of whole grains and fruit, which contain heart-healthy fiber. A study published in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2012 found that teens who included the greatest amounts of fiber in their diets also had the least visceral, or stomach, fat.
Read more: Importance of Healthy Eating for Teens
Barriers to Change
Getting a 14-year-old to give up all his favorite foods and adopt an active lifestyle won't happen overnight. Perhaps the steps he takes at first are as simple as giving up sugary soda and taking a 10-minute walk every day after school. Even these small efforts can make a difference.
To become more active, adolescents — girls in particular — must overcome their internal resistance to exercise and their perception of what it means to exercise, notes a 2013 report in BioMed Research International. This can take time and a good mentor. Parents can start by setting a good example through living a healthy, active lifestyle and making nutritious food choices.
- The Physician and Sports Medicine: A Review of Randomized Controlled Trials of Aerobic Exercise Training on Fitness and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Obese Adolescents
- Teen's Health: How Can I Lose Weight Safely
- Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism: Adolescent Fiber Consumption Is Associated With Visceral Fat and Inflammatory Markers
- BioMed Research International: What Are the Barriers Which Discourage 15-16 Year-Old Girls From Participating in Team Sports and How Can We Overcome Them
- Health.gov: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition: Chapter 3. Active Children and Adolescents