The Benefits of Exercise in Teens
Not only is a lean body good preventive medicine against disease, a lean moving body gives a child an extra dose. According to the American Heart Association, physical inactivity increases the risk of stroke and other major cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol and diabetes.
We already know that everyone has a different body shape, which isn’t always a predictor of future health issues. Thinness does not automatically mean health. Exercise in teens, and the association between fitness and blood pressure, is an important point to consider because blood pressure may also be a predictor of other health related issues like stroke and heart disease (1).
For major cardiovascular disease events and overall survival, fitness is even more important than fatness for predicting someone’s risk.
– Dr. Carl “Chip” Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at Ochsner Medical Center, in New Orleans.
The age of TV, handheld gaming systems and electronic devices, like iPads, have helped create a more sedentary culture. According to the CDC, children from ages 6-17 years old should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic activity daily, bone strengthening activities three times a week, and muscle building activities three times a week (2), but in a 2017 survey only 26.1% of high schoolers reported engaging in the recommended 60 minutes per day (4). This has the potential of contributing to health related issues in the future.
Let’s look at all the healthful things regular exercise can do for you and your child:
Exercise Builds a Healthy Heart
When your child moves his body regularly, his heart muscle becomes stronger and more efficient. The heart is like any other muscle: The more we use it, the stronger and more efficient it becomes. When we exercise regularly, our heart pumps at a lower rate and achieves a higher stroke volume, meaning that it moves more blood with each beat.
Because the heart of a regular exerciser is able to pump more blood with less effort, it’s likely to last longer. Study after study confirms that regular physical activity helps clear the body of unhealthy fats that clog arteries and contribute to heart disease. Experts have found that non-exercisers have twice the risk of developing heart disease as individuals who exercise regularly (3).
Exercise Builds Strong Bones
The growing years are the optimal time for the bone-strengthening effects of exercise. Since 90% of total bone mineral content is accumulated by the end of adolescence, optimizing bone mass and structure during childhood lessens the risk of broken bones in adulthood. Also, strong muscles help support our bones, giving us a stronger skeletal structure (4).
Exercise Prevents Injuries
Regular stretching exercises help children improve body posture and body symmetry, as well as minimize their muscular soreness after an activity or sport. Lengthening movements or stretching also prevents potential accidents and injuries by strengthening growing tendons and ligaments.
Exercise Strengthens Self-Esteem
Kids who exercise regularly feel better about themselves than do kids who are couch potatoes. Researchers are finding that the more kids move their bodies, the more they experience higher self-esteem and general well-being.
Exercise Fights Depression
While we tend to think of anxiety and depression as adult mental problems, not surprisingly these diseases are occurring more frequently and at younger ages in children. Both aerobic exercise (brisk walking and running, for example) and strength training reduce depression. 15 to 30 minutes of exercise every other day can help depressed people enjoy frequent positive mood swings within two or three weeks.
Exercise Strengthens Social Skills and Enhances Life Skills
Students who participate in interscholastic sports are less likely to smoke or use drugs and are more likely to stay in school and have good conduct and high academic achievement. Research also indicates that a lack of recreational activity may contribute to making kids more susceptible to negative influences such as drugs, gangs, or violence. Active sports and physical activity programs also have been shown to introduce kids to much-needed life skills, such as effective communication, leadership, teamwork, sportsmanship, conflict resolution, and goal setting. In a recent survey, many corporate executives said that they believed they owed much of their success to the skills they learned in team sports.
Exercise Moves Bowels
Kids often get constipated, usually because they follow a sedentary lifestyle, or are too busy to listen to their bowel signals. Moving the body moves the bowels, by speeding the transit time of intestinal contents.
Exercise Builds Smarter Students
Regular physical activity can improve memory, enhance concentration, heighten imagination, and assist in creative thinking. Most likely this “smart effect” of exercise is primarily due to the enhancement of blood flow and oxygen to the brain.
Exercise Helps Children Grow
Growth hormone, which is essential for building muscle, cartilage, and bone throughout the body, have been shown to increase a few minutes after exercise begins and to rise sharply when the intensity of the activity increases (5).
Exercise Strengthens the Immune System
Exercise perks up the immune system. Vigorous exercise stimulates the body to produce more infection-fighting white blood cells.
Exercise Burns Fat
Let’s take a trip into your fat cells and marvel at how moving makes your body lean. The enzyme lipoprotein lipase (LPL) escorts fat from the bloodstream into fat cells for storage and into muscle cells for energy. Exercise stimulates a double biochemical benefit: It increases LPL activity (fat burning) in muscle tissue yet decreases LPL activity (fat storing) in fat tissue. Inactivity, on the contrary, causes the reverse to occur: The body goes into fat-storing mode.
Exercise in teens is important. Helping your child to incorporate movement into his day can have long-lasting impacts! Here are some ways to help make exercise fun for your kids…>>
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- (1) https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults
- (2) http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/children/index.htm
- (3) https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-making-your-heart-work-harder-lowers-your-blood-pressure/
- (4) http://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/facts.htm
- (5) https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm
- Sears L.E.A.N. Kids by William Sears, M.D.