By: Kelly Atyeo-Fick, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc., P.H.Ec.
Being physically active at all ages is crucial to promote health and longevity. At anytime a person can start an exercise program, however, if you have been physically active your entire life, it is easier to get into the routine.1 This is why incorporating physical activity into the lives of youth and teens is so important. It creates healthy habits that can be maintained throughout the years.
What is Physical Activity?
When you move your body to increase your heart rate, breathing and muscle movement – you are participating in physical activity (PA).2 There are different categories of PA depending on the intensity.
Moderate-intensity: this form of PA is when your heart rate is up however – you can still carry out a conversation while you’re moving. 2 Examples include: walking, jogging, hiking, recreational biking.
Vigorous-intensity: this form of PA is when you can’t say more than a couple words without stopping to breath during activity and your heart rate is high. 2 Examples include: running, playing a sport and some forms of dance.
Energetic Play: this is a category that describes how young children participate in PA.2 It’s when a child is moving in a way that makes them work hard, breath heavy and warm up (for example playing a game of tag!).2
Sedentary behaviour is the complete opposite of physical activity. This is where your body is not moving very much and you are not expending as much energy. 2 Examples include: sitting for extended periods, playing video/computer games, driving.2
Teens aged 12-17 are encouraged to minimize sedentary activity each day, as lower levels are associated with health benefits.2 Some ways to achieve this is by reducing leisure TV/computer time to no more than 2 hours per day. 2 Also, by getting teens to replace sedentary time with physical activity!
What is the PA goal for teens 12-17 years old? 2,3
- 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous PA daily
- Vigorous-intensity PA at least 3 days per week
- PA that strengthens muscle/bone at least 3 days per week
The benefits of reaching this goal includes: the maintenance of a healthy body weight, increased confidence, improved learning/attention, improving heart health and having fun with friends.2,3
Yet, recent data shows that Canadian youth are not meeting this recommendation.4 So what are some ways to get teens more active?
Incorporate Physical Activity into the Families Routine
- Encouraging your teens to be active by being a role model is a great way to start getting them involved in PA
- Organize family activity time where you all do something active. It could be going on a family walk, run, skate or bike ride!
Get involved with your community!
- There are many recreational centres available that have fitness classes or events that involve components of PA. Look into these and sign your friends and family up.
- Certain community runs/walks (i.e. Terry Fox Run) and charity bike rides are all family friendly events
- Bring your teenager to the gym! 3 Sometimes gyms have specials in the summer months to help get more teens active.
Encourage Participation in Team Sports3
- if your teenager is interested in sports, encourage them to sign up for sports teams at school or even play them after school or their homework is complete.
PA before and After school!
- if your school isn’t too far away, encourage your teens to walk, rollerblade or even skateboard to school.3
Making it a Goal!
- Make everyone in the family accountable about whether they were active during the day. Talk about the activities that you and your family participated in the day. Be proud of each other’s accomplishments and steps to live a healthy life!
- NIA Senior Health. (2016). Exercise: How to Stay Active. Retrieved February 7, 2016, from http://nihseniorhealth.gov/exerciseandphysicalactivityhowtostayactive/makeexerciseahabit/01.html
- Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. (2012). Canadian Physical Activity, and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines. Retrieved February 7, 2016, from http://www.csep.ca/cmfiles/guidelines/csep_guidelines_handbook.pdf
- Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology. (n.d.). Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines. Retrieved February 7, 2016, from http://www.csep.ca/CMFiles/Guidelines/CSEP_PAGuidelines_youth_en.pdf
- Statistics Canada. (2015). Physical activity levels of Canadian children and youth, 2007 to 2009. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry. Retrieved February 7, 2016, from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-x/2011001/article/11553-eng.htm