How to Live a Healthy Life as a Busy Teen

Teens are busy – we get it. Between school, activities, friends, and social media, it can be challenging to find time for self-care. However, small changes now can add up to big changes later. Those big changes in areas like diet, exercise, and sleep for example, lead to a happier, healthier you. As you’ll see throughout this article, your physical and mental health are more interconnected than you might think.

Health experts recommend starting with simple, realistic goals that you can integrate into daily routines. Follow these 12 evidence-based tips to improve your physical and mental health and well-being, bit by bit.

5 Ways to Restore and Recharge

  • Limit social media use. You can do this with an app to help keep yourself accountable. Instead, spend time with friends and family, doing what you love, or just enjoying each other’s company. Too much social media can disrupt sleep, distract you from getting things done, and negatively impact your self-esteem.
  • Turn screens off 30 minutes before bed. The blue light from your cell phone screen makes it more difficult to fall asleep and wake up on time the next day. Try setting an alarm to remind you to turn your screens off and put your phone down.
  • Try deep breathing. Try using controlled breathing techniques when you wake up and before bed. This exercise can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and improve the quality of your rest.
  • Get your zzz’s. Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep. Being well-rested will make everything that much easier. Your brain needs a chance to re-set from a busy day. A lack of sleep can hurt your ability to think clearly and effectively manage stress.
  • Talk about your mental health. Reach out to a trusted adult or friend and confide in them. It’s okay not to be okay – support is available. Asking for help is a sign of strength.

3 Ways to Hydrate and Nourish

  • Carry a water bottle. Consuming plain water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages can prevent dehydration and reduce calorie intake. Staying hydrated supports good skin health and boosts your energy. 
  • Include more fruits and vegetables in your diet. Incorporate veggies with little effort by adding them to sandwiches. Not a veggie fan? Dip them into guacamole or hummus for extra flavor. Individuals who consume a variety of fruits and vegetables are less at risk for depression and anxiety.
  • Learn to cook. Make simple, healthy meals like eggs, pasta, tacos, or salads. You could save some money and impress your friends in the process. Food often tastes better when you’ve made it yourself. Cooking with family and friends is a great way to stay connected, and being connected to others helps build good mental health.

4 Ways to Be More Active

  • Take the stairs whenever possible. This small change can help keep your brain and heart healthier over time and improve your ability to perform better on a daily basis.
  • Take a walk. Even 10 minutes after school or before bed could burn calories and relieve stress. You can invite a friend, talk on the phone, or take in the world around you.
  • Try to move more when sitting down for long periods of time. If you’re watching TV, do push-ups or sit-ups during commercial breaks. If you’re sitting at a desk, take a break to stretch. More physical activity throughout your day adds up in a positive way.
  • Get outside. Go for a walk in the park, ride a bike, or hike in nature. Spending time outside doing a physical activity and being in nature can improve sleep, relieve stress, inspire curiosity, and spark creativity.

Being physically active can improve your brain health, help manage weight, reduce the risk of disease, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve your ability to do everyday activities. 

Parents can support teens by involving them in meal planning and preparation, encouraging active hobbies, and listening for health concerns. Stay engaged and lead by example – parents’ health habits directly influence their teen’s choices.

Taking care of your health now pays off down the road with increased energy, better focus, and an overall sense of well-being. You don’t have to change everything all at once. Start today with one or two small steps that fit your lifestyle. Over time, these little changes will lead to a healthier, more energetic you!

This article was written by student Akul Gupta. At the time of its publication, Akul was an undergraduate student at the University of South Florida pursuing a degree in biomedical sciences. His passions include promoting health equity, addressing disparities in global health outcomes, and designing context-specific interventions for underserved communities.

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