5 Reasons Exercising Will Make Your Teen Happier
I know, your teenager is busy. He or she is also wicked grumpy, and the very suggestion of joining a team or training for a 5K is not going to go over well. But let’s look at the compelling reasons why they – and you –will be happier once they get their heart rates up a couple times a week.
Exercise helps you learn.
What’s your teenager’s full time job? Being a student, and I don’t just mean in school. They are constantly trying to learn and process new facts and concepts, and memorize them, if not for life (that would be nice), then at least until they take some sort of test. Numerous studies have been done showing that exercise boosts blood flow to the brain, which helps speed brain activity and boosts memory. If you have a kid with an attention span too short to run through flash cards, a two mile run after studying could be just as effective.
Being a teenager is stressful.
In addition to being expected to learn everything from the New Deal to Calculus, your kid has to navigate the social ins and outs of high school. Not only is it stressful to be a friend (or friendless) or tanking in a class you really need an A in, there’s the mercurial temper of overworked teachers who forget to mention assignments that are due in 24 hours which they SWEAR they told you about a week ago, or the stress of telling your strings teacher you can’t make it to the concert because it’s your grandfather’s 80th birthday celebration in Cincinnati and your parents say your attendance is non-negotiable. Exercise not only reduces stress hormones, but it boosts serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is thought to help keep your mood calm. A calmer teenager means fewer slammed doors, less pouting, and less drama in general. Don’t you want that?
Being a teenager is depressing.
Aside from all the stressful reasons I mentioned above, life between 13 and 19 can suck. Aside from a rush of hormones that you aren’t used to, a new awareness for all the bad stuff going on in the world, and social media telling your precious little kid every time a friend’s mother is diagnosed with cancer or a friend of a friend has committed suicide. Ouch. Yes, you’ve heard that exercise can be just as effective as anti-depressants, so while I’m not saying skip the therapist or anti-depressants if your child really needs them, the increase in endorphins even a 15 minute bike ride give your kid will also increase their mood.
Exercise will help your child’s skin. Really.
Some kids are just predestined for acne, no matter what they eat or what they wash their face with. But in addition to whatever the dermatologist or late night QVC channel recommends, exercise increases the natural production of collagen (something women pay thousands of dollars for in creams and treatments annually, and a good reason you should lace those sneakers up too.) It also increases oxygen and blood flow to the skin – this results in a rosy glow while running, sure, but later it also results in your skin being able to ward off all sorts of things buried under the surface.
Your teenager will learn to appreciate their body if it can do something.
If your kid doesn’t do a sport or exercise, and is too young to have created another human (which is when many of us learn to appreciate how amazing these bodies are) they might not think about their body much, or even worse, they have no reason to think about it in a positive way. Teenagers scrutinize each other far too much, and if your body is just for looking good enough in clothes that no one teases you, then what kind of a relationship will you have with it? Not good.
But if your body can run a 5K for the local pet shelter or make it up the climbing wall at the local indoor rock climbing facility or score a goal for your team or even make it 10 times around the rink without wiping out, you will undoubtedly appreciate it more, even if it’s not consciously. And your teenager’s body issues will stick with them for years, so as a parent, one of the most important things you can do is give them a good start in their relationship with their body.