It’s no surprise to anyone that these days, that teenagers are spending too much time behind televisions, on iPads, phones and laptop screens. Like adults, kids need to be physically active to stay healthy, and the screentime robs them of precious time they could be using to lead an active lifestyle. In fact, new global research has found excess screen time and a lack of physical activity is actually harming the mental health of adolescents.
Participating in regular physical activity provides many benefits for physical and mental health for teenagers, and can also help manage future risk factors such as high body weight, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. While children under six will benefit from natural, daily physical activity like running, jumping and skipping, kids aged six to 17 need some more high-intensity fitness.
Only 12% of children and 2% of adolescents met The Australian Physical Activity Guidelines, as of 2020. The Australian Department of Health recommends young people between 5 – 17 should do at least 60 minutes each day of moderate to vigorous physical activity that makes the heart beat faster, and three times a week that this exercise should strengthens muscle and bone. If your teenager is struggling to meet these recommended guidelines, and you’re worried that they’re not active enough, getting them involved with personal training with a certified personal trainer might be a great solution.
Chris Wilson, BSc, is the Owner and Head Trainer at Perth’s boutique strength and conditioning studio, Chris Wilson Fitness Studio. Originally from Pembrokeshire, Wales, Wilson has been a trainer for 15 years, and has worked with everyone from Olympic athletes, to Wales’ rugby team, to corporate groups including Apple, Microsoft and Lululemon, and was once even the trainer to the Duke of Richmond at the famous English Estate in West Sussex!
Chris has just opened his exclusive fitness studio (it’s limited to 50 members only) in Nedlands, by the river in Western Australia, where he conducts group sessions, 1:1 training and corporate training. As part of his work, Chris has 1:1 personal training clients that are teenagers. He shared with Kids Fit Australia, that it’s more common than you would think, for teenagers to engage a personal trainer. “There’s lots of motivations driving the teenagers that come and train with me at my studio,” says Chris, “It could be because they’re not getting enough training at school – I think in school they are limited to potentially just one hour of sport a day in which the sport is not always specific to what they want to do. Or, they love playing a particular sport and want to improve by an extra 10% that will help them with their games – they want to feel stronger.They already know what their weaknesses are and they want to see improvements. A lot of teens want to go to the gym but they don’t know what to do.
Perhaps they don’t have a lot of training resources for their chosen sport off-season. We have one boy at Chris Wilson Fitness Studio called Harry who is 13 years old. He has a lot of soccer potential. Now it’s off-season – there is no set program and parents have to do what they can to keep them stimulated but also still focused on their sport and ways to improve their game. We do specific speed, agility and quickness movements to help him for his sport. We do bodyweight strength and power based movements before introducing them to weights.”
Interestingly, Chris says that the effect of social media influencers has a big impact on motivating teens to do gym-style workouts these days: “Kids are also exposed to alot more of professional player’s lives now because of Instagram and TikTok. They see these athletes they love doing their workouts at gyms, or with weights, or with personal trainers, and want to do the same.”
Chris says, however, for teens, there is a different process when it comes to personal training than what he would typically do with adults. “A key difference to start with, is the adult communicates their goals. Adults will say what they want to achieve. Kids are harder – they’re more vague. You have to get to know them and establish a good working relationship with them, to find out what’s driving them. We start with foundations and key movement patterns, utilising bodyweight before moving into weights. We look at their squat technique, overhead movements and mobility. We test their balance, power and unilateral strength. A lot of work is usually needed in controlling movements and core stability.”
While a lot of parents might be apprehensive of their children starting weights too young, there has been plenty of research that supports a slow, controlled and supervised approach helps excel children’s growth, so that when they start to go to the gym by themselves as they get older, they have good technique. A big benefit of starting your teen training early, is helping them establish correct techniques from an early age that will serve them throughout their life. Explains Chris: “Most teens don’t have a lot of previous injuries so this is one benefit of working out from a younger age. We can teach them correct movements and also pre-rehabilitation exercises so they don’t pick up as many injuries later down the line.”
The benefits are not just physical ones, says Chris: “Another excellent benefit of personal training for teens, is the mental health benefit – after regular sessions, a trainer assumes a mentor-like role of big brother or sister, and can be there to help teens overcome mental challenges to do with body image, strength, or ability. Often trainers have played lots of different sports, and trainers and teens can discuss situations to do with sports strategy, too.”
Chris Wilson’s top 5 tips for keeping your teenagers active:
- Make sure time to exercise is in your teen’s schedules, daily. Less computer time, more movement! Set the example wherever you can – it can be simple as suggesting to do some throwing practice with the rugby ball around in the backyard, or taking the dog for a walk to the park after school, or hitting the beach for a bodyboard or the pool for a paddle during the summer months. Think of incorporating family hikes into your weekends to explore a new place.
- Encourage them to play sports or be active when hanging with friends, rather than staying inside playing video games – suggest they perhaps shoot some hoops, go and kick the soccer ball at the park, go for a skateboard or bike ride. Encourage their friendships where friends are motivating them to be active and be more healthy versions of themselves.
- School P.E. lessons aren’t always enough – many kids perform better when they are in situations which are specific to them and focused on their development exclusively. if your child is really interested in furthering their sporting performance, consider signing them up with a personal trainer, who can tailor sessions specific to their goal or their sport.
- You don’t have to have money to help your teen workout, you don’t need to buy lots of weights or equipment – bodyweight exercises are just as effective for teens – that’s things like lunges, squats, glute bridges, mountain climbers, burpees, and tuck jumps. These exercises keep your heart pumping while building muscle and flexibility.
- Be a role model – your children watch and mimic your habits, good and bad. If your kids see you being physically active and having fun, they’re more likely to be active and stay active throughout their lives. Get a membership at a fitness studio or gym and make sure you share the workout benefits loudly to your teen – feeling that endorphin rush, making friends, and being energetic and strong! Better yet, enroli in personal training sessions together with your kid, and use it as a time to bond – your personal trainer can tailor exercises and weights so that you can both train together!