The Powerful Benefits of Exercise for TeensTeens Parents
This piece was written by Nora Laberee, a former research assistant at the CPTC.
Take Care of Your Body Through Exercise
As students, day-to-day life can get hectic as we try to balance school, social and personal lives, and plan for the future. Sometimes it’s hard to manage all these responsibilities while keeping stress under control and bodies healthy. Many of us enjoy getting active or participating in extracurricular sports and clubs that take up time outside of school. On the surface, these activities may just seem like a fun way to spend time. But they are even more powerful than we may realize.
Making time to get moving every day in some way is important for your mind, body, stress level, and overall well-being.
Organized athletics are a great way to be active, but you don’t have to play a sport or run marathons to get moving! Whatever form of exercise you enjoy most is your best bet. Why? Because if you like doing it, you’re more likely to want to do it every day!
Physical and Mental Benefits of Exercise
Exercise improves focus and concentration, which can help us manage time and school schedules. Even though making time for exercise can be tough, it can clear your head and let you think more effectively during the rest of the day. Beyond the day-to-day, exercise can even add years to your life! Research shows that just a few hours of activity a week can extend lives.
Manage Your Stress Levels
When we get moving, it also helps us manage our stress levels. It is important to know that stress can be healthy and natural. But too much stress can harm both minds and bodies. Exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on inside the body when we are stressed. It will help explain why exercise is such an important coping skill. When we start to feel stressed, the body prepares us to run from a threat. It starts to pump us full of adrenaline and cortisol, which are hormones that help regulate the response to stress. Too much cortisol can have negative effects not just on stress levels, but on weight and blood pressure as well. While exercise can increase these stress hormones in the moment, the stress hormones dip to all-time lows afterward! Being active also pumps the body with endorphins, which help calm the brain.
Regular exercise helps the body find the natural balance of healthy stress that is best for us. You may find that a different intensity or type of exercise will get your head just where it needs to be. When you are most stressed, a serious sweat can restore your calm and focus. Other times, something more relaxing, like a quiet walk or yoga, is what the mind and body crave. Pay attention to how different kinds of exercise make you feel when you are in different states of mind. Pretty soon you’ll be able to manage your stress levels through exercise – in combination with eating well, relaxation, and fun.
Make Time for Movement
Managing all the demands of being a young person is hard. When we are feeling overwhelmed, often the first thing to get cut from the schedule is exercise. Even during hectic times, remember that exercise is one of the most important things to keep on the schedule! This is the time we need help managing stress the most.
It is worth making time in your busy schedule to get active. Maybe that means taking a walk, going on a bike ride, or attending a fun dance class. If your favorite form of exercise is intense or you have health concerns or challenges, think about speaking with your physician before you settle on the best activity for you.
Small Changes Can Lead to Big Benefits
Even if you don’t have time to go to the gym every day, small changes that get you moving offer big benefits. Being active means something different for everyone. At school, I am not a member of a sports team or an exercise club, and while I find time for the gym a few days a week, I don’t make it there every day. Instead, and especially when I am feeling most stressed, I find that getting active can help me de-stress and clear my head. That usually means getting outside for a quick walk even during my busiest times of the year. For you, it may mean doing yoga, riding a bike, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. If you enjoy it and can make it a habit, you’ll be more likely to keep it up as you age.
Set Goals and Keep it Interesting
If you don’t already have a sport or active movement routine in place, think about ways that you can work one into your day-to-day life. Is there an activity you have always wanted to try? Before you assume you won’t have time, remember that as little as 10 minutes of exercise can benefit our minds and bodies. You don’t need to spend hours at the gym to feel good and reap those benefits!
Sometimes, no matter how much we enjoy something, we find ourselves in a rut. If you’re ever feeling bored of your favorite routine, think about ways you can switch it up and keep things interesting. A great way to keep yourself active is to set goals. Goals help me stay motivated and feel good.
Exercise isn’t meant to be torturous. Find a way of being active that you truly have fun with. Making time for exercise is a crucial part of having a healthy balance in your life and keeping your mind focused and clear. The benefits from the movement will help you thrive and keep your stress under control.
Empower Others to Exercise
Maybe you already know how powerful exercise is for self-care. You might already use exercise to de-stress and feel good. If so, think about spreading this knowledge. Some important people in your life may be facing too much stress and not realize how helpful exercise can be for managing this. Your friends or parents may not have a routine for staying active. Consider sharing this with them, and explaining how much you care about them and their wellbeing. Getting active together is also a great way to spend time together!