McDermott: Fitness for teens

Scott McDermott’s weekly column about health and wellness

I was sitting in our trainers’ office with a new client a few days ago, and pointing to all of the success photos on the wall. One of them always sends me back a few years. I remember I started working with a father and his son.

The father was a single dad and said the biggest hurdle was seeing his son spend all day playing what he termed “nofriendo” games. I thought it was funny, but also sad. I grew up in the 80’s, and remember when the only video game available was a pinball machine or a few digital ones down at the local soda shop or arcade. Those days are long gone.

My 5 year old thinks my amazing cell phone, with unlimited cartoons on Netflix is normal when the wait time at a restaurant is beyond his ability to withstand. Today’s teens have access to more video games and other technology than ever before in history. This keeps them away from the great outdoors and off the basketball court. Instead of moving their growing bodies, they spend countless hours pushing buttons, texting friends and playing video games.

Everyone has heard that the obesity epidemic exists in adults, and it is hitting teens hard too. The incidence of teenage diabetes is rising at an alarming rate.

Sometimes, getting a teenager to do something is as easy as teaching a rhinoceros to fetch. Don’t let their attitude get you down. Remember your own attitude problems as a teenager, take a deep breath, and prepare to stand your ground. Then try these tips out.

Make it fun and relevant.

Remember when your teen was a toddler or young like mine? Exercise wasn’t something you forced him or her to do. It just happened via hide-and-seek, tag, or just running all day long. Find what physical activities interest your teen and encourage him or her to get out and do it.

Ironically kids like to play games like Call of Duty, or World of Warcraft, but should any one of those games somehow become real, the kids playing them are so out of shape, they would never survive!

So how can you turn that to your favour? Get your kids involved in something that plays to that skill set. Paint Ball or Laser Tag will have your teen running, ducking, moving and using their body, while playing a game that is relevant to them. Team sports at school can be great, but some teens like to be solo.

Do it together.

If your child isn’t motivated to get in the gym on his or her own, offer to do it together. Whether you lift weights, ride bikes, play hockey, swim, or hike, doing it as a family makes it easier to keep your teen on an exercise schedule. Work with a trainer together, and watch your teen be stunned at how much you have in common while struggling with a tough exercise, or be impressed by how strong you are or vice versa.

Move every day.

While medical experts normally recommend adults get 30 minutes of exercise five or more days a week, the same doesn’t hold true for teenagers. Try to get your teen to exercise for at least 60 minutes most days of the week. It doesn’t have to be incredibly vigorous, they just need to move.

What about that young teenage boy I spoke of? Well, his amazing father dragged him to the gym for a few years, with only a few minor changes. He would do the bare minimum in his workout then sit on the couch paying games on his phone until his dad was done his extra cardio. However, something clicked when he got close to 17. In a little over a year he dropped nearly 100 pounds and is now fit, healthy, happy and thriving at university. All the work involved to get him there was totally worth it!

Happy Training!


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