Childhood obesity rates might be falling, experts say, but we have a long way to go to encourage healthy lifestyles in our children and teenagers. Some states have seen increases in childhood obesity rates and others are stagnating. But how can you encourage a healthy lifestyle in your teenager, the most stubborn of all age groups, when there’s so much to compete against?
Let them take the lead
Teenagers may resent even the most well-meaning efforts to make them sign up for sports or P.E. classes, and they may resist joining family bike rides or walks even if they’ve always participated in the past. Instead, ask them what activities they would like to do to stay healthier and use their ideas. Options like kickboxing, rock climbing, or belly dancing might be different enough to pique their interest.
Ask if they want company
A lot of parents think bonding over getting healthy together is a great idea but this can act as a deterrent. Not all teenagers want to be seen in spin class with their moms. Instead, give them the space they need but still get healthy on your own. When the going gets tough, they will notice you’ve been doing it too and it might open opportunities for bonding. If not, at least you’re both getting healthier!
Be a TV role model
One of the biggest deterrents to exercise in teenagers is the large amount of time they spend in front of the TV. Teens spend 4 hours a day in front of a screen. When you’re watching TV together, do some quick exercise during commercial breaks or at different cues in the program to make it more fun. Better yet, turn off the TV and head out to shoot a few hoops instead.
Healthy exercise choices get better results when you combine them with health eating. Replacing junk food in your home with healthier alternatives can help. For instance, they might reach for a bowl of ice cream every day after school while you’re still at work. Instead, put a package of Fruti bars in your freezer. They’ll still enjoy a frozen treat, but they’ll get more nutrients and fewer calories.