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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 5, No. 2 - March/April 2013

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Help! My Teen is a Couch Potato

By Michelle Mitchell

If you answer "yes" to these questions this article is for you...

  • Does television & internet time interfere with your teen's physical activity?
  • Does your teen say "I couldn't be bothered" when they are asked to join in with physical activity?
  • Is it easier to feed your teen junk food instead of fruit & vegetables?
  • Has your own physical activity gone by the wayside?

As our children get older, the amount they exercise usually declines. Teenagers typically drop out of team sports at age 13 for girls and 15 for boys. That's why the teenage years could possibly be the most vital time to keep kids moving. If they settle onto the couch it can become difficult to move them. Let's ensure that their 'drop' in activity doesn't become a 'standstill' by remembering these five key points.

  1. Anything is Better Than Nothing
    60 minutes of physical activity per day is critical for anyone's health and provides some benefits including reduced stress, a stronger immune system and more stable sleep patterns. However, if your teenager is at a 'dead stop', anything is better than nothing. Praise any attempt they make to get off the couch!
  2. Keep the Right Focus
    Anything that involves movement can provide health benefits. Try to think outside of the box and realise that team sports are only one way to skin a cat. Mountain climbing, self defence, dancing, ice-skating, skate boarding, walking the dog, riding a bike or even gardening can all count as physical activity.
  3. Move With Them
    Physical exercise isn't fun for all kids. Some kids dread it! For those who don't have good hand eye co-ordination or can't move quickly, correlate movement with getting teased or being bored. These teenagers may need someone to exercise with. Consider making a habit of walking the dog, going to yoga, or playing sport with your teenager. They may thank you for the rest of their lives.
  4. Turn Electronics Off
    Movement is unlikely to happen while teenagers are glued to their mobile phones. Getting teenagers off social media or gaming will be no small feat. I don't think there is anything wrong with using electronics as a bargaining chip if your teenager is at an unhealthy 'dead stop'. Adopt the priorities "phone time comes after exercise."
  5. Don't Enable their Poor Choices
    If your teenager is sitting on the couch every afternoon eating chips and watching TV it is important you don't enable them by buying junk and allowing them to have unlimited television and internet time. Don't make excuses for them and don't support unhealthy choices. Put their health first. If they need to get moving this year don't take "no" for an answer.

About Michelle Mitchell

Michelle delivers small group programs, presentations and mentoring to hundreds of teenagers each year through her charity Youth Excel. She regularly appears in the media as a Teenage Expert and speaks on Cyber Safety, Sexual Health, Bullying and Parenting Teens. To book Michelle at your school or community organisation please visit her website.

More Information

Michelle Mitchell
Founder of Youth Excel
Author of 'What Teenage Girls Don't Tell their Parents'


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