Why is exercise wise?
You've probably heard countless times how exercise is "good for you" but did you know that it can actually help you feel good, too? Getting the right amount of exercise can rev up your energy levels and even help you to feel better emotionally.
Experts recommend that adults get more than 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. There are three components to a well-balanced exercise routine: aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility training.
Exercising can help you look better, too. People who exercise burn calories and look more toned than those who don't. In fact, exercise is one of the most important parts of keeping your body at a healthy weight. When you exercise, you burn food calories as fuel. If a person eats more calories than he or she burns, the body stores them away as fat. Exercise can help burn these stored calories.
Exercising to maintain a healthy weight also decreases a person's risk of developing certain diseases, including type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. These diseases, which used to be found mostly in adults, are becoming more common in teens.
Finally, it may not seem important now, but exercise can help a person age well. Women are especially prone to a condition called osteoporosis (a weakening of the bones) as they get older. Studies have found that weight-bearing exercise, like running or brisk walking, can help girls (and guys!) keep their bones strong.
In addition to being active every day, experts recommend that teens get at least three 20-minute sessions a week of vigorous activity. If you play team sports, you're probably doing more than that recommendation, which is great! Some team sports that give you a great aerobic workout are swimming, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, hockey, and rowing.
But if you don't play team sports, don't worry; there are plenty of ways to get aerobic exercise on your own or with friends. These include biking, running, swimming, dancing, in-line skating, cross-country skiing, hiking, and walking quickly. In fact, the types of exercise that you do on your own are easier to continue when you leave high school and go on to work or college, making it easier to stay fit later in life as well.
Different types of exercise strengthen different muscle groups, for example:
For arms, try rowing or cross-country skiing. Pull-ups and push-ups, those old gym class standbys, are also good for building arm muscles.
For strong legs, try running, biking, or skating.
For shapely abs, you can't beat rowing, bike riding, and crunches.
Sports and activities that encourage flexibility are easy to find. Many high schools have gymnastics programs. Martial arts like karate also help a person stay flexible. Ballet, pilates, and yoga are other good choices. Warming up for a workout and doing simple stretching exercises after your workout also help you develop flexibility.
When picking the right type of exercise for you it can help to consider your workout personality. For example, do you like to work out alone and on your own schedule (in which case solo sports like biking or snowboarding may be for you), or do you like the shared motivation and companionship that comes from being part of a team? You also need to factor in practical considerations; such as whether your chosen activity is affordable and accessible to you (activities like horse riding are harder for people who live in cities, for example) and how much time you can set aside for your sport.
Too Much of
a Good Thing
Exercising too much in an effort to burn calories and lose weight can be a sign of an eating disorder. If you have any doubts about how much you should be exercising, talk with a school nurse or family doctor. And if you ever get the feeling that your exercise is in charge of you rather than the other way around, talk with your doctor, a parent, or another adult you trust.
Some girls who over exercise may stop getting their periods, a condition known as amenorrhea (pronounced: a-meh-nuh-ree-uh). Girls who regularly miss periods are less able to incorporate calcium into their bones, which can lead to the decreased bone density and increased risk of injury that goes with osteoporosis. The combination of amenorrhea, disordered eating, and osteoporosis is a condition called female athlete triad.
Considering the benefits to the heart, muscles, joints, and mind, it's easy to see why exercise is wise. If you exercise now, keep it up as you become an adult (this is often the biggest exercise challenge for people as they get busy with college and careers). One of the great things about exercise is that it's never too late to start. And don't forget that even small things can count as exercise when you're starting out - like taking a short bike ride or raking leaves. Even walking your dog counts as part of your 60 minutes a day of exercise (and your vet will tell you that animals need workouts just like humans do, so if your family pooch is portly, he'll benefit from your dedication, too).