Teens have to do so much to keep up with school, work, and extracurricular activities these days that it can be a battle to get them to add exercise to their routine. However, teens who don’t get exercise, regardless of their physical fitness, report worse mood and health than those who work out for an hour per day. Getting your teen to get in the habit of exercising today can set them on a path for continued health benefits in the future. Here’s 6 tricks you can use to get your teen off the couch and into athletic gear.
- Be a Positive Role Model
Our first trick starts with you, the parent. Teenagers tend to pick up a lot more about how to behave by watching what we do instead of listening to our lectures. As much as you tell your teen that working out will be great for them, demonstrating your own fitness habits will leave a much greater impact. Plus, if you don’t get exercise, why should they?
If you can show your teen how positive you feel after a workout, and explain how you stick to a routine even on days that you’d rather hang out and eat potato chips, you could really inspire your teen to do the same.
- Utilize Your Teen’s Self-Motivation
This next tip has to do with tapping into your teens preexisting goals. It might be the case that your teenager has no desire to work out, but there are other targets they want to reach. For example, let’s say your teen has the goal to be more social and make a new group of friends. Suddenly, exercise can sound super appealing to them when you explain that joining the track team or playing pick-up basketball at the park can open a whole world of people to play with.
Here’s another case. If your teen is struggling to get to sleep at night and experiences sleepiness throughout the day, exercise can be their solution. Help them accomplish their goal of taking control of their energy levels by showing them how exercise helps us get to sleep more easily and keeps us invigorated throughout the day. Whatever your teen hopes to accomplish, you might want to see if exercise can help them achieve it, especially if you need help tackling their patterns of defiance.
- Don’t Go All-In at Once
If you want your teen to exercise, you should expect that it will take some time for them to get up to speed. Chances are, they won’t want to go from lounging around for weeks to suddenly launching into an hour-long mountain jog. This is why we recommend starting small and building up to larger workouts.
At first, you might push your teen to work out for just 15 minutes, maybe taking a walk in the neighborhood or doing a quick core circuit. Then, try to increase the duration of the workout by a few minutes every other day. In a week or so, your teen might feel ready to take on a 30-minute swim, or an hour in the gym.
- Make It Fun
Some teens are just turned off to the idea of committing hours to solitary time at the gym, or finding teammates to get together for a competitive sport, but exercise comes in a ton of different forms. Some less common alternatives that your teen might totally love include going on nature excursions to new places, joining a hip-hop dance team, or climbing rock walls. The whole idea is to find an exercise that aligns with your teen’s interests. This way, exercising feels like something fun to do instead of a chore.
- Turn it into Social Hour
Studies show that we are more likely to exercise if we aren’t doing it on our own. In fact, having a workout buddy can keep us on track, inspire us to work harder, and make exercise feel more social and enjoyable. It might benefit your teen if you come up with an activity you can do as a family, or with friends, so everyone involved gets a boost of motivation.
Here are some social exercises you can inspire your teen to try. You could get the family out to the park and play a game Frisbee. You might encourage your teen to go skateboarding with a group of friends. Maybe you could get a group together to ride bikes to your teen’s favorite place in town. Studies show that we are more committed to exercising when we have others to work out with us, so social outings could improve your teen’s performance and the reward they feel from getting out and about.
- Be Your Teen’s Biggest Fan
Our final trick is to cheer on your teen. If working out is a challenge for your teen, encouragement from a parent or peer or could make all the difference in the world, especially when it comes to forming a routine.
You might show your support by tracking their progress and congratulating them when they hit certain benchmarks, no matter how small. Maybe you notice your teen has a better appetite and isn’t gaining weight, that’s something you can both be happy about. Or maybe you picked up that they have more energy and positivity, which you could comment on to help your teen realize their progress. You could use these examples, or something else inspirational.
Feeling Fired Up?
We hope so! We believe that these 6 tricks will help encourage, motivate, and inspire your teenager. Every teen is different, so try a variety of methods to see what’s the best fit for your teen. Developing a regular workout routine takes time, but our advice is sure to get your teen on the road to being healthier and happier.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com, ghostwriter at WriteItGreat.com, and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.