Factors Behind Inactivity Among Teens, and Ways to Get Them Moving

Written by Justin Walls on . Posted in Health & Wellness

A recent Johns Hopkins study of adolescents’ daily physical activity has led to the conclusion that they have comparable activity levels to 60 year olds. Participants were given devices to track their activity. Their peak activity times (2:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.) registered very low results. Activity in the study didn’t see an increase until participants were in their 20s. Organizations like the World Health Organization are now looking to create a policy that addresses this sedentary trend.

Some observable factors identified by the study that may discourage adolescents from engaging in activity are:

Quality of experience. Facilities in bad shape, lack of organized sport or play, underfunded equipment, and underperforming coaching staff can all contribute to taking the fun out of sport and activity.

  1. There may be too few organized activities close by that work in parents’ schedules. Cost is also a factor as many organized sports require expensive equipment. There are also fewer opportunities for girls’ sports than for boys’ sports.

Social Stigma. Some teens and adolescents may feel social pressure to not engage in sports or activities. Exercise may not be enough of a value to their social circle, making it difficult to find time for activity.

Lack of positive role models. This one may be the biggest cause for concern. If everyone around you is just lying around, why start the counter culture to be active? Respecting individuals for their commitment to organized fun activities can inspire children (and maybe even adults) into enjoyable fitness.

Understanding what could be missing from a teen’s daily life can help develop a positive framework to engage your teen or adolescent, sparking conversation about finding enjoyable activities to include in their life. Here are a few suggestions to get the conversation going:

Share how important fitness is to you. Make sure you can factually say, “I take my fitness seriously.” This way, you can start talking to your child about how you’d like to see them get the same satisfaction out of it.

Ask your kids what they enjoy doing. Let them get excited to talk about the things they like to do, even if that interest may seem like it started five minutes ago.

Follow their interests. Whiteboard ideas with your teen and let them try to connect with something that motivates them. They might even express a bit of gratitude for your help.

Encourage safe adventures. Teens tend to take more risks as their brains develop. Facilitate those urgings for exciting things with activities that are structured and developed by a responsible adult.

Help your teens get creative about being active, in constructive ways and with clear guidelines and rules. Modeling is possibly the best way for your child to start finding things they enjoy. It’s important that teens surround themselves with friends who are supportive of their choices.

Help your son or daughter expand their horizons. Learning how to be creative can open up opportunities to find many types of exciting activities, and hopefully reverse the sedentary trend your child may be experiencing.

By Justin Walls

 Justin Walls is a certified personal trainer (American College of Sports Medicine), specializing in youth fitness, senior fitness, myofascial release techniques, joint pain/arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, aqua fitness, running, and walking. He also has expertise in lifestyle/health management and meal planning, and a background in psychology. Learn more at justinwallsfitness.com.