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July 20, 2010

Regular Movement Key to Your Teenager's Well-Being

Pasty-faced vampires may be the current rage in pop culture but if your youth is starting to resemble these characters because it's been a long time since they've seen daylight, it's time to have a serious talk about physical activity.

Getting moving regularly is necessary for optimal health and can be a lot of fun. It improves mental sharpness, helps youth navigate social challenges more easily and also helps them better cope with the wide range of emotions they may be experiencing. That means mood swings caused by raging hormones and challenges that arise at school or in relationships may be better navigated, simply because of at least 30 minutes of activity a day.

As Deanna Betteridge, in motion Coordinator, explains, "Parents tell us that physical activity improves their children's ability to cope with emotions like anger, anxiety and frustration and gives them self confidence that helps them in social situations. Their energy level is improved and, because they can focus and learn better, there are academic benefits."

Canada's Physical Activity Guide for Youth recommends:

  • at least 30 minutes per day of physical activity

  • reducing screen time (TV, videos, computer games, surfing the internet or talking on the phone) by starting with 30 minutes per day

How can you support, encourage or help your kids find fun ways to get moving on a regular basis?

1. Physical activity needs to be a part of your teenager's day and routine

  • Making getting moving something your teenager does each day is the best way for them to get and stay active. It doesn't need to be a structured sport - physical chores, active transportation, and play are ways to work activity into their day.

2. Start small

  • It doesn't make sense to start an activity regime they can't maintain. Something that has them hurting or hobbling because they've overexerted themselves isn't the right choice.

3. Encourage your teenager to be honest about their fitness level

  • Smaller, achievable goals are recommended instead of biting off more than they can chew and getting discouraged because they're overwhelmed.

4. Help them choose the right activities for them

  • Your kid's personality and interests can make certain options for physical activity more appealing than others. The more fun it is, the more likely they are to do it.

5. Limit or reduce screen time

  • Encourage them to get outside for fresh air, vitamin D from the sun, the chance to people watch and experience new things.

  • Suggest putting down the phone and actually getting together with a friend.

  • Challenge your kids to get active in equal measures with the screen time they want: an hour of video games, an hour of activity.

  • Setting boundaries with your kids can be helpful. "We've heard of parents saying no cell phones in the house or after a certain time," says Deanna

6. Encourage them to use their human power as much as possible.

  • Active transportation - walking, cycling, skateboarding, inline skating or running to school - may be an easy way for youth to get moving. Instead of dropping them off at the door, ask your kids how they can get themselves to where they need to be using the power of their own bodies.

  • Educate yourself about the safe routes in your neighbourhood and encourage your kids to use them.

Physical activity doesn't have to be a chore or a pain. It can be fun. Your kids need healthy, strong messages about physical activity so they can be inspired and encouraged to get active. Some kids may shy away from team sports and may feel better about attending fitness classes or working out independently at a gym. If you haven't discussed these as possibilities with your kids, you may want to.

"It's about being supportive and creating opportunities for your kids and doing things with and as a family," says Deanna.

Getting moving doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Simply putting on a pair of comfortable walking shoes and going for a walk with your kids could be a fun way to get active and catch up with what's going on with them.

Interesting!

The Youth Health Survey asked youth a number of questions about physical activity. Click here to view a sample survey and here to read the report. Here's a snapshot of what they had to say:

  • Half of students in grade nine identify themselves as active, but this number drops to 40% by grade 12.

  • 83% of active students report three or more of their closest friends are physically active.

  • 74% of students said their parents encouraged or strongly encouraged them to be physically active.

  • 86% of students said their parents were supportive or very supportive of their participation in physical activities.

Local resources to get your kids moving

Boys and Girls Club of Winnipeg

General Council of Winnipeg Community Centres

Where can your kids get moving?

YMCA-YWCA Teen Pass

City of Winnipeg recreation facilities

Skateboard parks in Winnipeg

Kids of Mud

Community bike shops/bike recycling programs

Geocaching

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