Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Children's and parenting health centre

Making fitness fun for teens

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

According to UK Active the UK's inactivity rates are among the very worst in Europe, with around 30% of adults classed as inactive. Moreover, 63% of adults in the UK aren't meeting recommended levels of physical activity, compared to just 28% in Germany and 33% in France. As for kids, there’s even more bad news.

Research from the American Heart Association has shown that children’s fitness is also on the decline with the drop being blamed mostly on social media and computer games.

There are lots of distractions out there and often fitness is put on a back burner.

"Active children become active adults," says Emma Watts, Bio-Synergy Ambassador and Co-Founder of Bootcamp Revolution & Fitness Revolution. "Encouraging children to lead an active lifestyle from an early age ensures that they continue enjoying exercise and activities later in their life." But how can we make fitness sound more appealing to teens and get them moving and enjoying it?

Getting teens moving

Telling a teenager that exercise is good for their health certainly isn’t the best way to motivate them, but if you tell them it’ll make them feel happier they may well do it! Researchers at the University of Leeds have found that talking up the emotional benefits of exercise is better than emphasising the well-known health benefits. "Fun also counts for a lot when it comes to getting kids moving," says Marc Dresssen, Sports Scientist, Master Personal Trainer & NLP Coach, from Marc Dresssen Personal Training in London.

"Put yourself in the shoes of a child or remember your own childhood and think what excited you at that age and implement elements into the exercise routine."

Emphasising the emotional benefits of exercise

If kids believe that exercise is enjoyable and fun then they are more likely to engage in sport and exercise and there is evidence to support this. "We investigated whether highlighting the emotional benefits of sport and exercise to young people increased their levels of physical activity, more than highlighting the physical health benefits," says Reema Sirriyeh, co-author of the University of Leeds study.

More than 100 sixth-formers from four schools in West Yorkshire were recruited for the study.
They all got a daily text at 4pm for 2 weeks. Some texts said things like ‘Physical activity can make you feel cheerful. What activity will you do today?’ Others had texts with messages like ‘Physical activity can keep your heart healthy. What activity will you do today?’ Another group got texts that were a combination of the two.

Moving more

The teenagers recorded their levels of physical activity using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire, which measured the time they spent on moderate and vigorous exercise.

Analysis of the results found that on average the 128 teenagers who took part increased their levels of activity by about half an hour of moderate activity a week.

The largest increase in physical activity was seen in the teenagers who got the texts highlighting the emotional benefits of exercise.

They did 2 hours extra moderate exercise a week. The effects of the text reminders were seen mainly among teenagers who were physically inactive at the start of the study.

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

How to help headache pain
rash on skin
Top eczema triggers to avoid
Causes of fatigue & how to fight it
Tips to support digestive health
woman looking at pregnancy test
Is your body ready for pregnancy?
woman sleeping
Sleep better tonight
Treating your child's cold or fever
fifth disease
Illnesses every parent should know
spoonfull of sugar
Surprising things that harm your liver
woman holding stomach
Understand this common condition
What your nails say about your health