Being a teenager isn't easy. Life is changing at a rapid pace, and there are so many new experiences to deal with, that looking after their health can seem way down on the list. There are many fad diets and fitness crazes that seem to come and go, and the internet can be full of contradictory advice about eating habits, making it a struggle to keep up with current guidelines and opinion. However, there is some good news. Health does not have to be complicated. There are some simple ways for teens to enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle. If you are the parent of a teen, take a look at our five simple tips.
1. Stay active!
Research has shown that teens and young adults should engage in about one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. That may sound like a lot, 'but the good news is that this does not mean they must set aside an hour each day; short bursts of activity can be just as beneficial' as Dr Lanzer says. Encourage them to perform activities that they like, such as dancing to music, doing a short workout during the commercials in their favourite TV-show, walk or cycle to school instead of hopping on the bus - it all counts towards their hour of activity! Some schools offer after-school activities that they can do with friends, so it is worth checking out if that is an option in your area.
2. Eat healthy
Nearly all teens love a burger or a pizza but do the sensible thing and keep them as treats, rather than allowing them to become their staple diet. Avoid highly processed foods and ready meals, even if they are labelled as low-fat or diet food, and concentrate on getting fruits, vegetables, salads, nuts and whole grains into their regular diet. Not only are they better for your teens, helping them to be more alert, fit and have a better complexion; they work out cheaper too. Lastly, try to get them to concentrate on their food by making sure they are not texting, browsing or watching TV while eating. Many teens will decide to become vegetarian or even vegan; if that is the case in your home pay particular attention to making sure they get all the nutrients they need from alternatives to meat, fish and dairy products.
3. Healthy mind
Encourage your teens to believe in themselves and the fact that they have the power to make their own choices. A positive mindset is a great way to establish a positive lifestyle. However, if they do have negative moments, accept them as normal and encourage them to do the same. Explain that everyone goes through those feelings and teens have to cope with more than many people of other ages, so they should go easy on themselves. If you think their negative feelings or self-doubt persist for any length of time, encourage them to talk to someone they feel they can trust, even if that is an outsider such as a school counsellor or a GP, rather than yourself. Some teens benefit from stress-relief through Yoga or Pilates, which can be followed free online or through a DVD from your local library.
4. Get enough sleep!
Studies have shown that most teens don't get enough sleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, teens need an average of 8 - 10 hours of sleep per night to function well, but many teens report only getting an average of 8.5 hours. In addition, staying up late and sleeping in at weekends can affect their biological clock and affect their sleep quality. Remind your teens that sleep is as important as food, water and air for their vitality and well-being, and encourage them to help improve their sleep quality by going to bed at regular hours, making sure their room is quiet and dark, and switching off mobile devices.
Make sure there is no underlying medical reason if they complain of not being able to sleep well.
5. Share the science!
When your children become teens, accept that advice will not always be welcomed and that the time of saying "because I say so" is well and truly over. Have a sensible discussion rather than an angry shouting match, and if they argue, take the opportunity to go online - together - and find the scientific reasoning behind certain statements. Often, they will be more inclined to accept the word of a stranger such as a medical expert or a research foundation rather than the opinion of a loved one. Start by leaving this article lying around where they can see it, and encourage them if they show signs of wanting to eat better, stay fit, or follow any of the other tips included.