Have you seen the recent study compares the physical activity level of teens to grandparents? Present company aside, “critical periods of physical activity (tends to) decline by age across the lifespan.” And yet, this study shows that 19 year olds are as “sedentary as 60 year olds.” Reports like this one are exactly why Jazzercise, Inc. created GirlForce, our 2017 initiative that offers free classes to young women, 16-21. We want to young women in this critical phase to reap the physical and socio-emotional benefits of exercise that will support them in becoming the leaders of tomorrow.
Modern teens face unique challenges: from constant contact with screens to cyber-bullying, it’s a whole new world. The average teen spends 7 hours a day in front of a TV, smartphone or video games. And, the effects of all this screen time are not good. Research shows that more screen time means a less healthy parent-child relationship, inhibited ability to recognize emotions, weight gain, increased isolation/depression/aggression and lowered cognitive functioning in school.
So, what can we do?
“Do” is the important word there. We need to get our young people into action: give them healthy activities to do so they build healthy bodies and minds. Exercise produces endorphins, the neuro-chemicals that make one feel peaceful and happy. In fact, the CDC recommends that adolescents have 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day. Teen expert and parenting coach “Coach Keisha” reports that exercise supports adolescents’ development in these 5 ways:
- Exercise improves self-esteem and combats low self-worth.
- Exercise pumps up your brain. Increased blood flow to the heart and brain can create new brain cells which can improve memory and develop learning potential.
- Exercise reduces stress and anxiety. In her words, “A little sweat the day before a presentation can help you get ready to rock it.”
- Exercise improves social skills from cognition to communication.
- Exercise helps improve sleep. When body temp starts to fall post-workout, this sends a signal to the body that it’s time to rest.
Ideally, teens learn healthy habits from their parents or another positive, healthy adult in their lives. Exercise is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle. High school junior Sydney Mulhearn told me that “Sometimes I actually have days or even a week that is really distressing. (Jazzercise) causes me to relax and realize that I don’t need to care so much about what people think about me and I just need to let go, have fun, and throw my hands in the air sometimes.”
My thoughts exactly, Sydney.