Dear Fitness Coach,
During the school year my sons participate in team sports. Summer vacation has barely started, and my 12- and 16-year-olds have already turned into screen slugs. They spend hours alternating between the computer and X-box. How can I get them to be active outdoors?
You are right to be concerned. Just as for younger kids and adults, year-round participation in physical activity is essential for your teens’ well-being. Adolescents need 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day to stay fit. And exercise has particular benefits for pre-teens and teens because it reduces anxiety and depression. It also improves self-esteem and boosts academic performance.
The challenge for you as a parent is to motivate your kids during the unstructured summer months. Make it part of their daily responsibilities, like making their bed or clearing away their dishes. If they see it as optional, they will most likely not comply. Let them be part of the decision-making process, however. They will be less resistant if they have a choice in what type of activity to do. For seasonal activities, encourage them to do the physically demanding ones, whether that’s a soccer camp or camping with mountain hikes and kayaking.
If you need help on ideas for physical activities, check out your local community center or gym: many have summer programs for teens. Gold’s Gym in Tewksbury runs a year-round fitness program for school-age children called FitKidzRock!, which offers personal training and group fitness classes. Gold’s also has an athletic performance camp starting in July for high school athletes. Both programs are open to non-members.