Exercise: Teen Version

Why should I exercise?

Exercise has many benefits. It can:

  • Increase your strength and energy
  • Lift your mood
  • Make your body look better and more toned
  • Help you lose excess fat and keep a healthy weight
  • Help you sleep
  • Improve how you feel about yourself
  • Help keep your bones strong throughout your lifetime
  • Help prevent diabetes and high blood pressure, which are becoming more common in teens

What kinds of exercise are best for me?

If you are severely overweight or you have other health problems such as diabetes, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program.

Warming up and cooling down

  • Muscles that are warmed-up before exercise are more flexible and less likely to be injured. Brisk walking, easy jogging, or jumping jacks are good ways to get your muscles warm and ready to go.
  • After your muscles are warmed up, you may also want to stretch. Some people feel better if they stretch before and after exercise. Stretching after exercise is more important than stretching before exercise. It decreases the risk for being sore or injured.
  • When you are ready to stop, cool down by gradually slowing your activity.

Aerobic exercise

  • Aerobic exercise increases your breathing and heart rate. This is important because it helps keep your heart and lungs healthy. Examples include walking, swimming, riding a bike, and dancing. But, you need to do them briskly so that your heart and breathing rate go up. Most team sports are aerobic. Being part of a team sport will give you a chance to exercise several times a week. Tennis, hockey, rowing, soccer, basketball, volleyball, and track are all good examples of aerobic sports.


  • Exercise to strengthen all of your major muscle groups (legs, back, chest, belly, and arms). When you work your muscles, they get stronger and you are able to be active longer without getting tired. Stomach muscles support the back, so strengthening this area is important. Muscle mass burns more calories than fat, so as your muscle increases, so does your ability to burn calories. You could try weight lifting, stair stepping, carrying groceries, doing sit-ups or push-ups, and exercising with large elastic bands.


  • Flexibility exercises can help you move about more easily and have better posture. Being flexible makes it easier to do many activities and also decreases your risk for getting hurt. Flexibility exercises help you use the full range of motion of your joints. Examples include stretching, yoga, and tai chi.

How do I choose the exercise that is best for me?

If you haven’t been active, a good goal is to start doing something physical every day. Give your lungs, heart, and muscles time to adjust. Think about your style. Do you like organized activities or exercising on your own? Do you need someone or something to help motivate you? If so, sign up for a class or workout with a friend or family member. Do something you enjoy. If you choose something you don’t really like, you won’t stick with it. To avoid getting burned out, do a variety of activities.

If you would like to exercise, but would rather get in shape in private there are some good options. You can:

  • Use exercise equipment in your home.
  • Take private lessons from a personal trainer at a health club or recreation center.
  • Try working out with videos. You can get exercise videos for all levels of fitness. You can borrow them from your library, view them on Web sites, or buy them at stores or online.

How much should I exercise?

Try to exercise for at least 60 minutes most days of the week. Starting slow and building up to this is just fine. You don’t need to do 60 minutes all at once. Short 10 to 15 minute periods of activity work well too.

You also need to make sure that you’re not exercising too much. Some teens exercise more than is healthy in an effort to lose weight. This can be very dangerous and can be a sign of an eating disorder. Eat healthy meals that provide the right amount of calories for you to have the energy to exercise and keep a healthy weight.

If you play sports, you also need to be careful that you don’t overtrain. If you play one sport a lot, make sure that you take at least a couple of months off every year. It also helps to do a variety of activities, such as biking, swimming, and tennis.

What else can I do to improve my fitness?

Limit “screen time” to 2 hours or less per day. This includes TV, computer, video games, cellphone and iPad apps, and watching DVDs and movies. These activities are all fun and you don’t have to give them up, but don’t let them take the place of physical activities. Also try to limit the sweets, sodas, and high-fat fast foods you eat. Making healthier food choices can improve how you feel and help to maintain a healthy weight.

It’s a good idea to have a physical exam before you start a new exercise program, especially if you have any medical problems. If you are sick, in pain, or tired, take a couple of days off from exercising. The goal is to get healthier with exercise, not to burn out or hurt yourself. If you get injured, see your healthcare provider to make sure that it is not more serious than it looks.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-27
Last reviewed: 2014-10-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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