Teen fit the budding body

YOUNG HEALTH

Teen fit the budding body

Getting teen kids involved in fitness activities has great benefits. Parents must motivate their teen kids to get involved in physical activities of their liking, advises Anjali Sareen.

Walking into the fitness studio, I encountered a sight that put an immediate smile on my face. There was a teenager calling out a greeting to me from the elliptical trainer, while another was just stepping in for a TRX suspension training session and the third was waiting for her Pilates reformer session.

And that got me thinking... These kids were here because of varied self-motivated reasons; from getting stronger and fitter, to weight-loss, to better posture and core strength. But also in huge part they were here as a result of motivated parents who themselves followed a fitness-oriented lifestyle and recognizing the benefits, they had brought a similar focus to their children.

Food choices and inactivity, along with the age of electronic devices, has resulted in creating a youth generation with poor fitness levels, obesity, and postural imbalances. Teenage years are a time of great changes - psychologically, physically, and socially.

Studies have shown a clear link between a teenager’s self-image and a healthy lifestyle. Introducing physical activity with a foundation of fun, and a self-acknowledged purpose or goal can be an effective way to have a teenager adopt a healthier, more fitness-oriented lifestyle.

Parents play a crucial role in enabling their teenage children towards fitness and health. Parents are a role model. Seeing them engage in fitness activities, while eating well but healthily, helps reinforce the same and encourages teens to follow similar habits. Lead by example. And make it fun, preparing them for a lifelong relationship with fitness and exercise. Bring a tangible focus to the activity, where for instance they can compare their own progress or have a goal to be able to engage in a specific sport or activity within a time-frame. Plan active holidays.

A bonus that comes with choosing a fitter lifestyle is that teenagers adopt better eating habits and learn to change their food choices. There is a general shift towards a balanced, more nutritious diet that would help them in their chosen fitness activities.

Teenagers should be encouraged to choose from activities they relate to, would enjoy, or base a goal on, as this will help them stay committed longer. However, it is important to remember that activities that may be the current trend or favoured by adults as being effective may not have the same relevance or be as beneficial for teenagers. Encouraging outdoor-based activities and sports, functional and core-based programs would be to their advantage rather than gruelling weight-training sessions or endless hours on cardio-machines along with the, unfortunately, easily available supplements and powders that promise utopian results.

At the same time, current lifestyles have resulted in creating postural concerns and muscular imbalances even for teenagers; a direct result of being in classrooms most day, sitting at the computer for hours, or watching TV. These concerns will only get worse as they move into their roles as adults. That makes it all the more important to have them incorporate habits and activities that can act as preventive measures for their future.

Thereby helping reduce the risk of today’s common lifestyle problems like chronic lower back pain, shoulder and neck issues, diabetes, and obesity, to name a few.

Being physically fit and active makes our bodies more energetic, keeping us feeling healthy, stress-free and alert.  And this is true for adults and teenagers alike. Also, being physically active helps prevent our metabolic rates from slowing down, a leading cause of obesity. The increasing obesity amongst kids has physical and psychological effects.
Benefits of teen fitness:

* A positive body image, higher self-esteem and better confidence levels
* Builds stronger muscles, joints, and bones
*  Higher energy levels, better endurance, and stamina
*  Healthier eating habits
*  Prevents lifestyle-related health disorders

Once they’ve started, teens too begin to enjoy the feeling of having better energy, feeling stronger, having a sense of better control over their bodies through better body-awareness, and start to naturally look forward to their workouts. It showed on the face of my 15 year old student as she related to me how her friend in the middle of a playful punching session exclaimed, “Wow, you’ve got abs!”.

(The writer is a fitness expert)

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