Americans aren’t especially known for being in amazing physical shape. Although there are plenty of us who enjoy making workouts part of our daily routines, there are many more people who have embraced a much more sedentary lifestyle. And because we live in a society that revolves around convenience, it’s become all too easy to be relatively inactive.
It’s not just adults who have become less mobile. We’re seeing evidence that young people aren’t doing much moving, either. Just 10 or 20 years ago, kids would spend more of their free time playing outside with their friends. But now, nearly one-third of high school students play computer or video games for three or more hours on an average school day. The allure of social media plays a role, as well. Teens don’t have to gather in a local park to keep in touch with their classmates or neighbors; they can merely look them up on Facebook or send them a quick text to stay updated.
In theory, we understand the importance of being active. But in practice, we’re all falling short -- and that includes American teenagers. Federal guidelines recommend that children and adolescents aged six to 17 should partake in 60 minutes of physical activity on a daily basis. While participation in sports and other extracurriculars can help, it’s clear we aren’t doing enough to encourage that type of exercise. In fact, recent statistics show that only three in 10 high school students meet the minimum recommendations for daily physical activity, which puts them on par with senior citizens in terms of exercise levels!
Ultimately, that means that young people are suffering. Shockingly, over 90% of U.S. high school students fail to receive the amount of exercise that will keep them healthy -- a trend made worse by the fact that only 29% of high school students have gym class each day.
Still, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost or that teens don’t want to be in good shape. Although approximately 12.7 million (or 17%) of children and adolescents in the U.S. are considered obese, there are small changes families can make to encourage healthy habits. And since roughly 44% of female high school students and 15% of male high school students are attempting to lose weight, the desire to get fit is certainly there. Your teen may just need a little bit of encouragement to begin their fitness journey.
Want to encourage your teen to amp up their exercise? By restricting family screen time, encouraging physical activities that appeal to your teen’s interests, and making exercise more accessible at home (like by creating a home gym or going on group bike rides), you can facilitate the formation of healthy habits. With your support, your teen can take control of their health and their self-confidence while laying the foundation for a physically fit lifestyle.