As adolescents gain proficiency in sports and other healthy endeavors they may become focused on improving their overall physical fitness. While parents may be grateful for their kids’ desire to be in good shape, it is important to make sure their choices are consistent with juvenile well-being and good health.
For example, if your 12-year-old son is interested in lifting weights to improve his strength and muscle mass, is that a good idea or a bad one? The Mayo Clinic recommends shifting his focus to strength training instead of weight lifting or bodybuilding. Increased endurance, improved athletic performance, and instilling life-long good practices are some of the benefits of strength training. On the other hand, lifting heavy weights when you are still growing can lead to injury. Make sure his focus is on safely utilizing light resistance using controlled movements, instead of frenzied workouts with heavy weights.
What if your 13-year-old daughter attempts to improve her field hockey game by carefully controlling her diet? Obviously, cultivating an interest in healthy eating can be an extremely useful thing, as long as the focus is on positive choices versus extreme restrictions. Most parents are all to familiar with the challenge of getting healthy basics incorporated into kids’ daily eating routines. The CDC estimates that most US youth do not eat the minimum recommended amount of fruits and vegetables and whole grains, instead consuming many empty calories from sugary sodas and processed foods. While restricting these harmful foods is a great idea, restricting other caloric intake too much can be to teens’ detriment. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association revealed that when unhealthy habits emerge in adolescence to control weight –like smoking, using food substitutes (like powdered drinks), and skipping meals – they are very likely to carry on into adulthood. The key is to focus on healthy eating instead of quick fixes or extreme measures in order to ensure that kids get the necessary calories and content to fuel their growing bodies.
Similarly, some adolescents are able to increase their exercise routines and still maintain an acceptable balance, but others may not recognize when they are pushing too hard. One study out of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland found a tipping point where exercising too much becomes harmful. The recommended amount of exercise per day for five to 18 year-olds is one hour, and those who exercised were happier . . . until they exceeded two hours a day. At that point there were diminishing returns for teens that included stress, anxiety and depression. As with eating habits, moderation is the key to improved performance and health.
An increased focus on good health, fitness, and exercise is a great thing for your industrious kid – just keep her goals grounded in realistic expectations and reasonable practices.
Bess Kercher, M.A. explores the reality of motherhood in her blog "A Few Good Moms...Can You Handle the Truth?" Bess lives in Charlotte with her husband and two sons. You can read more of her writing at www.maemucho.com.