The keys to reaching or staying at a healthy weight are regular exercise and good eating habits. Some people think exercise and good eating require lots of effort or planning. But that's not true. In fact, the best way to work them into our lives is by making small changes that gradually become part of our routine.
We've all succeeded in making changes that are now ingrained in our lifestyles — learning to brush our teeth, for example. Here's the information you need to make these other healthy habits just as easy.
Teens should get 60 minutes or more of physical activity a day. Note the word "activity": As long as you're getting your body moving, it doesn't have to mean doing complicated exercises or hitting the gym every day. All that matters is that each week you get the right balance of activity, including aerobic, strength building, and flexibility exercise. Make exercise a habit by scheduling some every day.
On days when you have soccer practice or an aerobics class, you may have no trouble exercising for an hour or more. But most of us are busy, and 60 minutes a day of activity seems like a lot of time. The good news is that it's OK to divide it into shorter "exercise breaks" throughout the day.
Just as you might have a healthy snack to stop yourself getting hungry, exercise snacks can keep energy levels high. So get up 15 minutes early and do some yoga or other stretching activity. Fast walk or jog for 15 minutes at lunch. Do the same thing after school — or walk or bike home. Add to that taking the stairs, gym class, and walking between classes during the day, and you've probably reached your 60 minutes.
Here are 10 simple ways to make an exercise lifestyle change:
Eating well doesn't mean dieting over and over again. In fact, studies have shown that dieting often doesn't work — and diets may have the reverse effect, with dieters gaining back more weight than before they started.
One reason diets don't work is because they can encourage people to think of foods as "good" or "bad," when the truth is everything is OK in moderation. Diets also encourage people to "give up" certain foods, which can make us feel more deprived. And not only do we feel deprived, diets often deplete our bodies of important nutrients. Teens should eat a variety of foods, and there's nothing wrong with the occasional treat. A candy bar somehow tastes more special if we treat ourselves once in a while instead of every day.
The best way to stay at a healthy weight (or lose weight if you need to) is to make healthy food choices daily. For some of us, that means changing our mindset about food. Instead of thinking of food emotionally (for example, as a reward for doing well on a test or as a way to deal with stress), see it for what it is — a practical way to fuel our bodies.
Here are 10 tips for making healthy eating a part of your life:
Use your creativity to come up with ways to fit exercise and healthy eating into your life in a way that works for you. We're all different. Your best friend might prefer to schedule some gym time while you'd rather take your Frisbee-playing dog to the park. Knowing what's right for you will make it a lot easier to do!
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: July 2012
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