8 SIMPLE WAYS TO INSPIRE YOUR TEENAGER TO MOVE more
Updated: Jul 26
This article was originally written and published for Mums At The Table online and Channel 7TWO by Melani De Sousa, The Wellness Workshop founder & 2019 Personal Trainer of the year Australia
There are many ways that we can all move more and give our bodies the benefit and joy of exercise outside of organised sport. Below, we've explored at least eight different ways you can encourage your teenage to move more if you feel their lifestyle has become less active and a little more sedentary.
Focusing on all the fun, different and wonderful ways we can celebrate movement is far more enjoyable.
1. Find out what your teen is interested in & help them build movement into their lifestyle
As a society, we can be guilty of overemphasising things like weight and obesity rates when it comes to promoting the benefits of exercise. A lot of the time this just puts a negative focus around movement and can cause further ostracisation among teenagers. I find focusing on all the fun, different and wonderful ways we can celebrate movement is far more effective. If parents find their teenagers aren’t moving as much as they think they should try to understand what they love doing and help them build movement into their lifestyle around those interests. For example:
If they’re artistic and love music – encourage them to take up dance classes, or attend local outdoor music festivals
If they’re competitive – get the family in on doing a day of backyard cricket, a scavenger hunt, bike riding, or games day (Twister is a fun one!)
If they love shopping – go window shopping with them at the local shopping centre or in the city; make a day out of it and the physical activity is a bonus
2. Create a routine
It can be easy for us to sit back and tell others what to do. But it is far more effective to get involved and do it with them. Create routine around movement by including it in everyday activities:
Encourage them to walk to school with friends rather than driving them in
Have a family “walk around the block” evening after dinner, rather than sitting down to watch TV
Pick a day of the week that someone picks a new activity the family enjoys; things like bowling, rock-climbing, trampolining, laser tag are all fun ones!
3. Change your language
Talking too much about exercise in relation to weight and guidelines can create resentment and negativity around exercise for many children and teens. Allow them to explore what they like and encourage what they ‘can do’ rather than criticise what they ‘can’t’ or ‘don’t do’. Change your language from “you need to exercise” or “you have to lose weight” to “what makes you feel good?” or “what are some ways we can move around more as a family?”. Our language and tone about habits can dictate the attitude our teenagers develop towards them.
4. Don’t use exercise as a punishment
Also, avoid using exercise as a punishment tactic or force teens to move in ways they don’t enjoy. Rather, let them explore what they like, regardless of how different or unconventional it might be to you.
5. Make it social
Most teenagers would much rather hang out with their friends than their parents! So, encourage regular social activity. Things like going to the beach, the local skate park, local basketball courts, and football ovals are all areas teenagers can have a good time with each other while enjoying the benefits of being outdoors and getting off their bums.
6. Get out in nature
We can be guilty of not exploring our own beautiful backyard. Get out in nature and discover all the amazing parks, scenic coastlines and rugged terrain Australia has to offer. Print out a map of your city or state and place markers on where you want to visit. See how many markers you can collect on the map. Try horse-riding, hiking, bird watching, or even things like paddle-boarding can be fun to learn.
7. Embrace technology that facilitates movement
Young people are living increasingly sedentary lives due to the impact of technology. But it can also be used positively as a tool to facilitate movement. There are loads of apps available such Strava, which allows you to track runs or bike rides, share with friends and followers, and even compete against each other. Zombies, Run! is another great app for the gaming teen, which actually simulates zombies chasing you while you run to increase your pace, while Charity Run helps socially conscious kids raise money for worthy causes by donating dollars for every kilometer they accumulate.
8. Have fun
Finally, try not to be so serious when it comes to movement. We were all teenagers once and we know how fun it can be to do the exact opposite of what Mum and Dad want you to do. So rather than telling your teen to get more active, do it with them and have a laugh! Movement can be enjoyed in many settings and environments – not just a gym or sporting field.