Lots of parents are unaware of the fact that fit teenagers do better at school! They also think that obesity is something that is not going to affect their teens. But figures show that in the last 25 years in the USA, there has been a dramatic increase in obese or ‘grossly fat’ people in the States. Fit teenagers are becoming less common. The CDC reports that no state actually met the goal to lower obesity to about 15% of the population. To make matters worse, there were about 12 states which were showing obesity rates of 30%. Teenagers are no exception as this increase spans all age groups.
They do better academically!
The great news is that fit teenagers do better at school and get better results. It really is a win-win situation!
It is not just the old jaded advice on diet and getting exercise. It is a much bigger umbrella because we are looking at how to look after mind, body, and mood. They are all inextricably linked because the better diet will give a teen more energy. This, in turn, will encourage them to get moving and that takes care of the weight problem.
Contrast that with couch potatoes who eat junk food and never move! Becoming tired is a great way of getting a great night’s sleep which will recharge the batteries. Being fit in the broadest sense of the word will help a teen cope with stress and be motivated to do well. He or she will also be in a better mood (due to the endorphins which are released after exercise). Now that is a real bonus.
Fitness and tests
Studies have shown that the fit teenagers are doing better at tests at school. Let us look at the results of two important studies.
The first one was carried out by the University of California in Los Angeles. They tested about 2,000 students from the fifth to ninth graders. The first thing they noticed that overall about 32% were already overweight and 28% were actually obese. The tests carried out were in math, reading and language tests.
The less fit students were getting lower grades in those tests than their fitter counterparts. They were asked to complete a one-mile run/fitness test. Those who took longer to finish scored less on the test. In fact, they calculated that for every extra minute longer to finish the course, this correlated with almost a one-point drop on their test scores. More tests need to be done but indications are that physical fitness and gym programs should be introduced again because they really do help students perform better all around.
Another study was reported in the Journal of Pediatrics and this looked at which forms of fitness were influencing test scores and academic performance. The good news is that muscular strength had no bearing at all on the scores. So, gym rats doing crushing bodybuilding programs are not likely to do better at school.
But look at the other two areas of fitness which include cardiorespiratory strength and motor coordination. The latter would include things like the ability to coordinate movements and be agile. The cardiorespiratory fitness would cover aerobics which determines how the lungs can provide the body with vital oxygen to all the organs. The researchers at the Autonomous University of Madrid examined about 2,000 Spanish kids between the ages of 6 and 18.
The conclusions were very straightforward. The kids who were less agile, fast and well coordinated in their movements were doing less well academically than their fitter and healthier counterparts. Being fitter would be a positive factor in academic achievement.
How to help your teen get fitter
- Help them to be aware of healthy eating habits. Forget about the Big Mac and the giant cans of Coke which are full of sugar, trans fats, cholesterol, and salt.
- Introduce changes in diet gradually so that low–fat dairy and lean meat are standard fares together with lots of fruit, vegetables, nuts, and other healthy snacks.
- Encourage them to choose a sport they really like and feel comfortable with. They may not like team sports and prefer the more challenging individual ones like running or climbing. They may want to try martial arts.
- Remind them that nearly 50% of American youths (and 60% of Canadian youth) between teens and adulthood are not active in any sport at all. They are missing out on a load of health benefits.
- The UK National Health Service recommends that teens get 60 minutes of exercise a day
- Remind them of all the health benefits which we have mentioned above, especially about excelling at school. Also, mention that clearer skin is another great plus. This is usually a problem for teens.
- Talk about the risk of being addicted to sports and that if they start worrying about missing training or prefer this activity to see their friends, they should be careful.
As we have seen, fitness for teens is a really important area for their healthy development.