How to Encourage Your Teen to Move More

When your child is little, they seem to be a never-ending source of energy - bouncing off the walls, running instead of walking, and always wanting to be on the go.

Now that the teenage years have hit, you might find yourself wondering where your bouncing tot went. For many teens, the lure of the couch, the phone, the tablet, or gaming device makes for a far more attractive afternoon than going out for a bike ride with friends or family. 

While it's completely normal for teens to want their own space and to chill out after a long day at school, those who aren't active are at risk of developing unhealthy lifestyle habits. Motivating your teen to adopt a daily exercise routine can help build a foundation of well-being that will stretch into adulthood.

Here are 7 tips to help you encourage your teenager to get active...

1. Build it Up Over Time

You need to walk before you can run, right? Well, the same is true for encouraging a usually sedentary child to exercise. Don't go in all guns blazing and demand they start running a 10K every week. Instead, build up their physical activity over time.

Small acts of activity that are easily repeatable and buildable are the way to help create healthy habits. If your teen's first experience of physical activity is too full-on, it might deter them from doing it again. Start with something easy and achievable. Just 10 or 15 minutes a day, whether it's a walk to the shops, a jog around the block, a game of tennis, or a kick about in the garden. Over time, increase the length of time of the activity and before you know it, they'll have the confidence and the stamina to exercise for longer. 

2. Be a Good Role Model

You might not think it, but your teen is still influenced by your behaviour. Set a good example for your sedentary teen by keeping up with your own exercise routine. Not only that, show them how much you enjoy it (without being too in their face). The more they see you enjoying it, the more likely they'll be to join you, without having to nag.

Whether it's Joe Wicks on YouTube, a dance class, or a casual run, you can start encouraging your teen to get active with you with a simple "Fancy joining me at the gym today?" or "I'm going to a new dance class if you'd like to come too?" Ask with zero pressure and ask frequently. This laid-back approach could encourage them to eventually join in.

3. Make it Fun

One of the reasons your teen might be less inclined to exercise is because they don't see it as fun. Certainly not as much fun as making endless TikToks, that is. But this doesn't have to be the case. There are so many fun ways to work in an hour of physical activity during the day.

You could even create a weekly challenge where they complete an hour of any kind of exercise a day and at the end of the week, they get a reward. Get the whole family to join in and compete against each other or work together (a family football tournament or evening walk after dinner are simple and fun ideas) and enjoy some special family time. 

4. Help Them Find Something They Enjoy

Exercise isn't all about going for a run or hitting the gym.

If the thought of these fills your teen with dread, then have a chat about the kind of thing they would actually enjoy doing. While some teens might enjoy joining a sports team with their friends, others aren't as athletically inclined, and that's absolutely fine!

Any physical activity counts as exercise, and there are so many ways they can exercise and have fun at the same time. The more they enjoy the activity, the more likely they will be to stick with it in the long run. Create a list with them of all the things they like (or might like), whether it's swimming, dancing, yoga, rock climbing, skateboarding, netball, walking, etc, and have a look for local classes that they could join. 

5. Involve Their Friends

Sometimes the idea of going to an exercise class or launching into a new physical activity can be daunting. Especially if they're doing it alone. Ask your teen to speak to their close friends and see if they want to join them - everything is better with company after all. It's also a great excuse to spend more time with their friends, without it involving a screen.

6. Don't Force Them Out of the House

If your teen prefers to be at home and doesn't enjoy group activities, then encourage them to get active at home.

You don't need to go out to stay active and there are so many amazing apps and videos on YouTube that can get them moving without having to go out. From HIIT programmes and online yoga to beginner weight training and dance sessions, there is a huge variety available - a lot for free and accessible at their fingertips. 

Working out online also allows them to switch things up and try a variety of different activities, allowing them to move at their own pace and try new things when they feel like it. 

7. Be Realistic

The teenage years are hectic and full-on, so it's important to be mindful of your teen's schedule. They won't want to sacrifice everything in order to exercise, and with schoolwork, socialising, and downtime, they shouldn't have to. 

Exercising can be done at any time, so have a talk about where it can fit into their schedule, so they don't miss out on anything. If they're a morning bird or a night owl, think about when they could slot in their 30 to 60 minutes of activity a day so it works for them.

Further Information

Inspiring Healthy Eating Habits for Children
Fun Outdoor Activities
How to Deal with a Rebellious Teenager
How to Help Your Teen Overcome Shyness

External Resources

Very Well Health - How much exercise does your teen need
NHS - Physical activity guidelines for children and young people