Extracurricular activities play an important role in the physical, mental and emotional growth of teenagers. As they grow into adolescence, kids usually gravitate towards one or two activities that they are good at and that they enjoy. I love hearing about my teenage patients’ interests and make a special point to ask kids about their various involvements at check-up visits.
For those kids participating in team sports, especially those that happen in the course of a day at school, getting a dose of needed daily physical activity comes as a matter of course. But a recent worldwide survey of physical activity in teens found that 78% of teen boys and 85% of teen girls are too inactive. Although art, drama, music, journalism or volunteerism are just as engaging and important as sports, kids with these interests do have to work harder to get their physical activity in. Like most grown-ups, some teenagers will need to schedule active time.
A good general prescription for teens’ cardiovascular health is engaging in any activity that gets them somewhat breathless for about 30 minutes a day, 4 to 5 times a week (eg. walking, jogging, biking, swimming). Adding to that some weight training to build skeletal muscle for an hour twice a week (using weight machines, hand weights or body weight exercises like push-ups and squats), will help teens maintain a healthy weight and blood sugar. Starting this healthy exercise habit early in life can help build healthy bodies for a lifetime.
Article written by Joanna Storey, MD