The Importance of Physical Fitness for Teens
A rise in mental health problems among youth correlates with the decline in play opportunities for kids and teens. Though our society is beginning to learn about the importance of physical activity through play in early childhood development of social, physical, cognitive and emotional skills, teens have largely been left out of the equation.
Yet for teens, being physically active is just as critical as for younger kids, and even more challenging to incorporate into their hectic schedules. Teens want to have fun, too, and they need to get physically active, so it’s essential that we find a solution to help teens make time for physical fitness in their daily lives. We need to help ensure teens develop long-lasting fitness habits that will keep them healthy and happy for years to come.
We can accomplish this by addressing the problems and consequences surrounding the lack of physical activity among today’s youth, understanding the impact of physical play on development, learning the benefits of physical activity for teens and building fitness playgrounds to give teens a space to have fun while they get fit.
Lack of Physical Activity Among Today’s Youth
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends that children and adolescents get approximately an hour or more of physical activity every day, but how many kids and teens are actually getting that much exercise?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), not many.
- Less than 22 percent of kids in the United States age 6 to 19 are getting the recommended hour of moderate-to-vigorous exercise at least five days a week.
- Only about 27 percent of high schoolers are physically active for an hour every day of the week.
- Less than 52 percent of high schoolers attended a physical education class in a normal week in 2015.
- Less than 30 percent of high schoolers attended a physical education class every day in 2015.
The majority of teens aren’t getting the amount of physical activity they need. In fact, many are getting as little exercise as older adults, age 60 and above; teens are getting as much physical activity as their grandparents.
Instead of being physically active, their time is spent in a mostly sedentary lifestyle. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that kids ages 8 to 18 spend 7.5 hours daily in front of a screen on average. With an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, health conditions like obesity and diabetes are on the rise among children.
For teenagers, it’s especially important that they limit screentime to get enough sleep and exercise. Eliminating televisions from their bedrooms and putting time restrictions on cell phone use and video games can help encourage kids to get enough sleep and be active.
Along with the recommendation for how much time today’s youth should spend being physically active, the HHS also provides suggestions and guidance for the kind of exercise adolescents should engage in. Physical activity for teens should include:
- Aerobic: Moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise should comprise most of the recommended hour of physical activity at least three days per week.
- Muscle- and bone-strengthening: Part of the hour of recommended physical activity should also include muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening at least three days a week.
Those teens who aren’t physically active may experience consequences of this physical inactivity that can be severe and long-lasting. Even if teens aren’t noticing short-term consequences for their lack of physical activity now, they’ll notice consequences in the future, long after the negative side effects have become difficult to reverse.
Lack of physical activity can:
- Cause an imbalance in energy levels
- Increase the risk of obesity
- Increase the risk of developing osteoporosis
- Increase the risk of cardiovascular disease
- Increase the risk of diabetes
- Increase the risk of cancer
By getting physically active now, teens can prevent these negative side effects from coming to fruition. Learning how to be healthy and prioritize physical activity now will serve them well in their adulthood.
Impact of Physical Play on Development
Play is an intrinsic part of a child’s development. Play brings with it physical, mental and social benefits, such as preventing obesity, reducing stress, boosting self-esteem and establishing friendships. Free play, especially outdoor play, helps kids develop their problem-solving skills and can help improve symptoms of conditions like ADHD. Physical play impacts development throughout the various stages of a child’s life.
Ages 2 to 5
While in this stage, kids grow and change rapidly. Play is a vital part of their development in motor skills, including balance, coordination and muscle control.
Play at this stage is generally more independent and side-by-side rather than interpersonal. Kids at this age are just learning skills like taking turns and sharing, which can make engaging directly in play with other children a challenging task. By the end of this stage, kids typically begin to play actively with other kids as they develop communication and social skills.
Activities for this age group may include earning how to ride a tricycle, playing with brightly-colored balls of different sizes and pretend play on playground equipment such as slides, tree houses and jungle gyms. Physical activity at this age should help kids hone their balance, coordination and social skills.
Ages 5 to 12
By this stage, kids have gotten stronger, bigger and built up their stamina. They enjoy playing games with rules with their friends. Boys tend to enjoy racing and playing games with balls, and girls tend to enjoy imaginative play.
Covered spaces on playgrounds are ideal for this group as they can provide hideouts for games like hide-and-seek. Kids this age can also greatly benefit from getting involved in team sports and community activities. Structured activities like team sports and unstructured activities like having fun on the playground can help kids stay healthy and reduce stress.
Age 13 to 19
Teens grow quickly in height and weight as they move toward physical maturity. They enjoy playing competitive and non-competitive games with friends but want to spend less time with parents. Getting involved in community groups and teams can help teens feel more independent and important by giving them a sense of belonging and purpose.
Physical activity may be hardest to incorporate into adolescents’ lives at this stage, as teens tend to have busy schedules and social lives. Physical fitness affects teenage health in various ways, and not remaining physically active can have negative consequences, so teens should make exercise a priority in their daily lives to stay fit and healthy.
Benefits of Physical Activity for Teens
Physical activity is essential for everybody, but exercise is especially important for teens who are growing quickly in weight, height and strength. By learning how to get physically active now, they’ll develop healthy habits that will stay with them throughout their lives.
1. Physical Benefits
When most people think of exercise, their first thought is of its physical benefits. How does getting the right amount of exercise improve and sustain your physical health and wellbeing? For teens, being physically active can provide several physical benefits:
- Improve the cardiorespiratory system
- Build strong muscles and bones
- Control weight
- Reduce the risk of obesity
- Reduce the risk of heart disease
- Reduce the risk of cancer
- Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
- Reduce the risk of high blood pressure
- Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
- Increase life span
By making small adjustments to their daily routine, teenagers can easily incorporate physical activity into their schedule and thus reduce their risk of developing multiple serious diseases, strengthen their body and improve their body’s overall functioning.
2. Mental Benefits
Though people tend to focus on the physical benefits of exercise, there are also several mental benefits that come with being physically active. Being a teenager can be a stressful stage in a person’s life. Teens face academic pressure in school through grades, tests and college applications, social pressure to make time for friends, and personal pressure to form their own ideas and values while also establishing independence from their parents. It’s a tumultuous time that can bring with it a lot of stress. Fortunately, physical activity is a great way to relieve that stress teens so often feel in their daily lives.
Along with physical benefits, getting the right amount of exercise can also offer teens many mental benefits, such as:
- Improve mood
- Reduce stress levels
- Reduce depression and anxiety symptoms
- Boost self-esteem
- Enhance body image
- Improve cognitive performance
Endorphins that are released during exercise boost happiness. So exercise makes you healthier and happier, too. When teens are feeling stressed or upset or just need to vent some frustration, physical activity is the perfect outlet.
Struggling in school can also be a sign that teens need more exercise. Physical activity and higher levels of fitness are linked to improving cognitive performance in areas such as memory and concentration. By being physically active, teens can improve their grades, their memory, their attendance and their ability to stay on task while in the classroom.
Physical activity can improve just about every aspect of a person’s life, so why feel miserable scrolling through social media on the couch when you can get up, get active and have fun? Your body and your future self will thank you.
With teens’ busy schedules, they may wonder how they can possibly squeeze in an hour of daily exercise between school, homework, studying, volunteering, applying to colleges, part-time jobs, socializing and sleeping. For anyone starting a fitness habit, the task can seem overwhelming and prevent them from getting started altogether. But finding small ways to incorporate short bouts of physical activity into your daily schedule is a great way to start and begin to build up the habit without a need for a drastic schedule change.
- Encourage teens to walk or bike when they’re traveling to school, work or their friend’s house.
- Encourage teens to take stairs instead of elevators.
- Encourage or mandate teens to participate in a physical education class in school.
Even better, teens can combine physical activity with fun by visiting their community’s fitness playground.
Though playgrounds are traditionally viewed as being solely for kids, a shift in our perception is underway about who playgrounds are being built for. If playgrounds are accessible to the whole community, shouldn’t everyone in the community be able to enjoy it? Shouldn’t the teens and adults who bring their younger siblings and children to the playground to play get the chance to have fun and get fit, too?
That’s what fitness playgrounds offer.
Fitness playgrounds are more than just swings, slides and seesaws. Fitness playgrounds function to provide fun with fitness. We’re more likely to engage in activities we actually enjoy, so here at Little Tikes Commercial, we manufacture fitness playgrounds so people of all ages can develop a positive relationship with exercise by making physical activity fun.
Whether at school, church or parks, teens should be offered plenty of access to fitness playgrounds in their communities. At school, fitness playgrounds can easily be included in sports training and physical education programs. Churches and other religious organizations can incorporate fitness playgrounds into youth group programs. Fitness playgrounds in parks can encourage everyone in the community to get fit and become healthier.
Teenagers can try many different activities on playground equipment. Here are a few examples of the equipment options we offer at Little Tikes Commercial that can work for your teens:
- The Single Balance Beam is great for teens who want to improve or perfect their balance.
- The Cape Horn is a floating beam that provides a more difficult balancing challenge.
- The Klondike is a set of inclined balance beams that offer kids and teens a fun challenge for testing their balancing ability.
- The Challenge Ladder can help develop upper body and core strength as you swing your way from one end of this horizontal ladder to the other.
- The Circle Challenge Ladder is a specific challenge ladder on which teens can climb a ladder shaped in a circle.
- The Wavy Challenge Ladder is another type of challenger ladder with wavy bars for an extra challenge.
- The Therapeutic Rings can be used by kids and teens of all abilities to develop their upper body strength.
- The Vertical Ladder is great for targeting core, arm and leg muscles.
- The Leg Lift Loop targets arm and core muscles as teens hold onto a loop above their head and lift their legs without bending their knees until their legs are parallel to the ground.
- The Turning/Chinning Bar can help teens develop their upper body strength as they use their arms and hands to lift their chins above the bar.
- The Parallel Bars are used for strengthening the upper body. Kids and teens place their hands on the bars and use their arms to move from one end of the bars to the other.
- The Double Ring Trek is great for a little competitive race with a friend across two parallel rows of rings.
- The Arch Ladder can help playground visitors enhance their agility, footwork and speed along with their upper and lower body strength.
- The Monkey Bar is used for exercises like pull-ups, chin-ups and hand-over-hand exercises.
- The Dip/Leg Raise is used for strengthening leg, thigh and calf muscles.
- The Ab Bench is used to target your core.
- The Sit-Up Bench can be used for stretching and performing sit-ups. The Sit-Up Bench also includes another bar where you can tuck your feet for an extra boost.
The equipment found in a fitness playground can improve leg, arm, core, hip, back and shoulder muscles for a full body workout. Teens can enhance their strength, flexibility, balance and coordination by using all equipment properly and efficiently, following instructions on signs as necessary. Teens can also use walking paths within the playground for a light- or moderate-intensity exercise.
Remember to warm up and cool down before and after any physical activity and stick with equipment that suits your abilities. Focus on building up strength and endurance gradually rather than overexerting yourself right out of the gate.
Fitness playgrounds also typically include shade structures to prevent overheating. Shade can make a playground and its equipment more comfortable and enjoyable for visitors and can help to increase the longevity of equipment. Shade structures can to enhance visitors’ experience at the playground. Our shade structures:
- Block up to 96 percent of harmful UV rays
- Keep the playground cooler by up to 20 degrees
- Protect equipment from sun damage and the weather
- Provide a cool resting place to avoid overheating on hot days
- Offer everyone a space to play longer without overheating
At Little Tikes Commercial, we offer several shade structures that can protect any playground and its visitors:
- Single-post shades are supported in the center by a single post.
- Two-post hip structures are great for covering pools or bleachers without a post at its center.
- Two- and four-post shades are built with posts on either side with an open center, perfect for an open, shady spot.
- Triangle shades provide plenty of shade with a fun, unique look.
- Superspans are ideal for shading a large space, such as a pool or seating area.
- Custom shade structures are perfect for anyone who wishes to design their own structure, including the structure’s shape and color.
Along with shade structures, fitness playgrounds should include other amenities. We offer additional amenities such as picnic tables, benches and bike racks where teens can rest and secure their bikes.
For a place where fun meets fitness, a fitness playground has everything teens need.
Physical Fitness With Little Tikes Commercial
Teens have enough on their plates. They need a space where they can have fun while getting the exercise they need to maintain their health and happiness. Fitness playgrounds from Little Tikes Commercial can help teens get the aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening exercises they need for the recommended 60 minutes a day.
To help your teens get fit and healthy, start by addressing the problems and consequences surrounding the lack of physical activity among today’s youth, educate them about the impact of physical activity on their developmental stage and inform them of the benefits of physical activity for their age group.
If teens have time to spend 7.5 hours behind screens, they have time to get physically active. At Little Tikes Commercial, we can help make that time spent getting active just as fun as their time spent behind screens. If your local community offers a fitness playground, plan a visit! If your community doesn’t have a fitness playground and you want to help your teens and the teens in your community on their journey to get physically fit, contact Little Tikes Commercial for your fitness playground today.