Fitness tips for teens

Posted on 27 February 2020

A regular exercise routine can help your teen stay healthy, get stronger – and feel better, too.

It may be diet; it may be simple ignorance. It might be a symptom of an increasingly sedentary modern life. But obesity in children is rising. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, over 14% of primary school children in South Africa are already overweight.

This means that if obesity rates in SA children continue to grow at the current rate, almost four million school children will be overweight or obese by 2025. Obesity can increase the risk of many serious, chronic and life-threatening health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.

Is your child at risk? The solution is simpler than you might think.

There is a direct correlation between obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, warns Ansoné Hugo, a biokineticist at Mediclinic Kimberley, and this applies to both children and adults. “There is less and less natural play amongst kids and many busy adults are desk bound for much of the day. As a result, fewer calories are burnt – leading to weight gain and other structural problems due to excessive sitting.”

The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children and adolescents between the ages of six and 17 years take part in at least 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.

The South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition agrees. In its 2013 review of predominant risk factors behind the growing epidemic of childhood obesity in SA, a lack of exercise was a notable highlight: a majority of children who spend less than an hour (a day? A week?) participating in sporting activities are more likely to be overweight and obese.


A regular exercise routine can help your teenager:

  • Improve their overall fitness
  • Increase lean body mass
  • Burn more calories
  • Make bones stronger
  • Improve mental health


For any age group, variety in workouts is essential. Your teen should formulate a regimen around a 50/50 mix of aerobic activity and strength training.

Cardio-focused training – including walking, cycling, running and swimming – strengthens the heart and lungs, reducing the risk of many related conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and stroke.

Strength training, which uses free weights or your own body weight to add resistance to a particular movement, helps train your muscles to perform that function more efficiently. In this way, strength training can help you prevent becoming injured while playing sports or taking part in endurance races.


Consistency is key, says Hugo. Start slow, set small and realistic goals, and build up over time. “Exercise and training are not the same things,” explains Hugo. “Many would-be sports stars are put off by the fear of failing at popular sports. Exercise is there to enhance and maintain health, and this should be foremost in your mind if you simply want to get – and remain – active.”

He suggests encouraging your child to start off slowly. “Do as much as your body allows. Rome was not built in a day and neither is fitness.”


Published in Exercise

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.