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What Are the Best Ways to Help Kids and Teens Stay Healthy?

By Erin McPherson, Assistant General Manager at Inner Element Fitness, B.S. Exercise Sports Science

Another Texas summer means a lot more free time for kids and teens. While parents might coax some activity out of children on family vacations, how can you combat the sedentary attractiveness of playing Fortnite or texting with friends? You want to motivate children to take healthy steps on their own now because it can set the foundation for a lifetime of healthy living later.

With kids and teens from 7-18, the goal is to instill the knowledge that they are in charge of their own health and can take positive and negative actions which affect it. But you don’t want children to feel insecure about the way they look. Here are some suggestions to strike the perfect balance and help your children stay healthy.

What Workouts Are Best for Kids and Teenagers?

If you think your children could use more physical activity, try getting them involved with you at a local fitness center. The key is to look for age-appropriate activities. Inner Element is one of the few boutique fitness studios with great kid options. We invite adolescents from 13-16 to join their parents in workout sessions. We also have a dedicated and exciting Kid Zone where younger children can just enjoy some fun with their peers.

We recommend that younger students avoid dumbbells and heavy weights, usually until the age of 13-14. They are still growing into their bodies, and too much weight could cause injury. Mobility work, stretching, game activity, and cardio exercises are all great for kids in this age group. Once children hit the 16-year-old mark, they are more comfortable with how their body works and can participate in workout sessions on their own. They can start incorporating weights, but we suggest working more on form than weight at this point.

Parents notice that children in well-structured workout programs exhibit elevated self-confidence and enhanced self-discipline. They feel better, sleep better, have more energy and can focus better. Learning perseverance through a challenging fitness program can also lead to a similar degree of success and accomplishment in other areas of their life.

How Should Parents Talk to Their Children About Weight?

This can be a delicate process because children should be able to balance weight and health. Because their bodies are still growing, they might go through “growth spurts,” where it looks like they are gaining weight, but then they suddenly “shoot up.” This can be the body’s way of gathering energy to grow naturally. But the teen years are also when youth become aware of body image and eating disorders can begin.

As a parent, be aware that what you say can affect their self-confidence when you talk to children about losing and gaining weight. It is best not to say they are too fat or too skinny, or to attach negative images to food intake. The better approach is to set a good example of what healthy eating looks like, demonstrate the benefits of physical activity, and to teach children how to make smart choices when eating away from home. Show them the positive sides of healthiness and explain how it helps you feel more comfortable with your body.

How Can Parents Help Children Stay Fit Over the Summer?

Once school ends, most kids just want to relax and do nothing, or the family gets involved in vacations with poor physical activity options and unhealthy eating choices. Even parents can start to slide on setting a good health example. So, try to plan ahead to incorporate healthy activities for the whole family into summer vacation time. At home, participate in group hikes or pick-up games. Go to water parks, take bike rides, or head to the beach or swimming pool. When you’re on the road, look for places with a gym or pool and get the family involved. Even if you just take a brisk walk around the hotel together every morning or evening, you are leading by example.

What Should Parents Do to Help Kids and Teens Learn Great Health Habits?

Engaging in healthy options should be seen as part of a normal family routine, not as some kind of punishment. Make nutrition a priority for everyone in the family, so even the youngest children will see what healthy eating looks like. Watch fatty foods and incorporate fruits, veggies and healthy drinking options into your daily food routine. Limit sugared drinks for yourself and your kids. Also, show your children that exercise can be a healthier way of coping with stress in place of stress eating. Although parents can certainly dictate how the house runs, what you really want to do is show children how to make smart choices, so they will know how to do it on their own when they leave the nest.

Want to help your children learn great exercise and diet habits? Contact us today and we’ll help you and your family establish a healthy routine.

Ready to get on track? Ask me for help defining realistic fitness and/or nutrition goals and designing the plans to achieve them.

DISCLAIMER Please recognize the fact that it is your responsibility to work directly with your physician before, during, and after seeking fitness consultation. As such, any information provided is not to be followed without the prior approval of your physician. If you choose to use this information without the prior consent of your physician, you are agreeing to accept full responsibility for your decision. 

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