For most parents, this question poses even more. What type of exercise? How long should they engage in physical activity? Should my teen weight train? Is this bad for their growth? A teen fitness program should include aerobic exercise, or any continuous activity that increases heart rate and breathing. Think about participation in activities like basketball, soccer, bicycling, or swimming. With regular workouts, the efficiency of your teen’s cardiorespiratory system will improve, so that the heart and lungs don’t have to work as hard to meet the body’s demands for freshly oxygenated blood.
Aerobic exercise also affects a teen’s body weight composition. By burning excess calories that would otherwise get converted to fat, lean muscle will form. In general, the more aerobic an activity, the more calories are burned.
Low-intensity workouts burn a higher percentage of calories from fat than high-intensity workouts do. However, the more taxing aerobic exercises ultimately burn more fat calories overall. For instance, if a teenager weighing 132 pounds walks at a moderate pace fore ten minutes, he will burn roughly 43 calories. If that same teenager runs the same route that he walked, he more than doubles the amount of energy spent, to 90 calories.
Under the guidance of well-trained adults and fitness educators, children aged 8 or older can safely incorporate weight training also known as strength training or resistance training into their workout routine to increase muscle strength and endurance. Muscle strength refers to the ability to displace a given load or resistance, while muscle endurance is the ability to sustain less-intense force over an extended period of time. For parents, you do not have to worry about your sons developing large muscles until after puberty and your daughters generally are not able to develop large muscle mass. In other words, you do not have to worry about your teen getting too muscular.
Multiple studies have shown that teens gain strength and endurance faster by lifting moderately heavy weights many times rather than straining to hoist unwieldy loads for just a couple repetitions. Teens should also always be supervised by a qualified adult, who can help them demonstrate the proper technique.
Other precautions to take include the following:
See your pediatrician for a physical and medical checkup before your teen starts training.
Remember that resistance training is a small part of a well-rounded fitness program. Experts generally recommend that adolescents exercise with weights no more than three times per week.
Don’t overdo it! Excessive physical activity can lead to injuries and cause menstrual abnormalities. Your teen may be exercising too much if her weight falls below normal or muscles ache for an extended period of time. Complaints of pain does warrant a phone call to your pediatrician.
It takes time! Teens should be reminded not to step up the weight resistance and number of repetitions before they are physically ready.
Drink plenty of fluids. Young people are more susceptible to the effects of heat and humidity, and teens’ ability to dissipate heat through sweating is not as efficient as adults. Teens should drink at least two six-ounce glasses of water before, during, and after working out in hot/humid conditions.
Always warm up and cool down with stretching exercises before and after training. Stretching the muscles increases their flexibility and helps to safeguard against injury.