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Physical Activity in Adolescence

Daily physical activity improves health, fitness, and overall quality of life. It is one of the Healthy People 2020 goals.1 Adolescent Health: Think, Act, Grow® (TAG) urges professionals working with teens to promote activities that support physical, social, emotional, and mental health.2 The President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition notes many benefits of daily physical activity.3 These benefits include improved grades, increased self-confidence, and reduced stress.3

Core Components of Physical Activity 

Adolescents should get at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise each day. Such activities require more energy than less intense exercise (e.g., walking at a slow pace). Ideally, these activities should be varied. While some activities strengthen a teens’ heart, others strengthen bones or muscles. Some activity examples include:

  • Brisk walking, cycling, swimming (heart)
  • Running, jumping rope, playing basketball (bones)
  • Lifting weights, yoga (muscles)

Some activities, like running, can strengthen the heart, bones, and muscles. Strengthening the heart, bones, and muscles are all important. However, Health.gov’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans notes that most of adolescents’ physical activity time should involve heart-strengthening exercise. Because bones develop during adolescence, bone-strengthening exercise (i.e., activities that involves impact with the ground, like jumping) also is important.4 Currently, only 30 percent of adolescent boys exercise enough. Among adolescent girls, only 13 percent get enough exercise.5


1 Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2019). Physical activity. Retrieved from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/physical-activity
2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2017). Adolescent Health: Think, Act, Grow® (TAG). Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/tag/index.html
3 President's Council on Sports Fitness & Nutrition. (2017). Physical activity initiative. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/be-active/physical-activity-initiative/index.html
4 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018). Physical activity guidelines for Americans. Retrieved from https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/pdf/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf
5 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2015). Dietary guidelines for Americans: 2015-2020. Retrieved from https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/resources/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf
Content created by Office of Population Affairs
Content last reviewed on July 30, 2019