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January 2019: Jumping into a Healthy New Year for Adolescents

The New Year is a great time to encourage the adolescents in our lives to increase their physical activity to improve their current and lifelong health. Adolescents spend a lot of time involved in sedentary activities at school and at home, and many youth-serving professionals and family members are looking for ways to encourage teens to be more physically active.

The national call to action, Adolescent Health: Think, Act, Grow® (TAG), led by the HHS Office of Adolescent Health, calls upon organizations and individuals working with adolescents to prioritize activities that enhance their physical, social, emotional, and mental health. Several federal programs, including Healthy People 2020 and the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition are focused on increasing physical activity for all Americans, including adolescents.

How Much Exercise Do Adolescents Need to Stay Healthy?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that “regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence is important for promoting lifelong health and well-being and preventing various health conditions like heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.”

Chapter 3 of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recently updated Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that children ages 6-17 engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily, including activities that are:

  • Aerobic, such as running, jumping rope, or swimming; 
  • Bone-strengthening, such as running, basketball, or tennis; and 
  • Muscle-strengthening, such as weight lifting, climbing trees or playing on playground equipment.

The guidelines offer details on how much of each type of activity is optimal for children and youth and outline the many benefits of regular exercise for adolescents, including:

  • Supports overall health and fitness; 
  • Improves cardiorespiratory health, bone and muscle strength, and mental cognition; and 
  • Reduces depression.

What is Healthy People 2020?

For more than 30 years, Healthy People has established benchmarks for health in the United States and monitored progress toward those goals. Healthy People 2020 advocates for increased physical activity for adolescents and identifies several objectives to support this goal, including:

  • Increasing the proportion of adolescents who meet current federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic physical activity and for muscle-strengthening activity;
  • Increasing the proportion of schools requiring daily physical education and the proportion of students that participate;
  • Increasing regular recess for elementary students and the proportion of schools requiring it; and
  • Reducing adolescent screen use.

HHS is in the process of updating the Healthy People benchmarks and objectives for 2030.

What Can You Do to Encourage Physical Activity for Adolescents?

There are a number of tools and tips you can use to encourage the adolescents you work with or know to become more physically active:

Spread the Word with These Posts

  • How to fit more activity into your teen's day: do chores together like walking the dog or washing the car, show off your dance moves, play active games like kickball. https://bit.ly/2RrfZdi #MoveYourWay #TAG42Mil
  • A few easy tips to be active with your family: 1) make it a game; 2) work (and work out) as a team; 3) be prepared so you're always ready to #MoveYourWay. Get ideas: https://youtu.be/zNs8srnJ95U #TAG42Mil
  • Adolescents deserve access to sports and play, no matter where they live. What’s more, they need it! Learn how you can encourage teens to get more physical exercise at https://bit.ly/2rc5spe #TAG42Mil
  • Regular physical activity supports adolescents’ overall health and fitness. HHS recommends 60 minutes a day! https://bit.ly/2Q1eF09 #TAG42Mil

Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on February 28, 2019