The average teen's bedroom holds many temptations that contribute to a sedentary lifestyle. Computers, televisions, gaming devices and cellphones are all within arm's reach, making it easy to be physically inactive. According to the American Heart Association, physical inactivity is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease. It also increases the risk of obesity, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes. The AHA recommends that teens participate in a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. High school gym classes can help teens reach this goal.
According to KidsHealth.org, exercise benefits the entire body, including the brain. Physical activity causes the body to generate endorphins, chemicals that make people feel happier. Exercise can help with mild depression and low self-esteem, making it a suitable option for anxiety-prone teens. The results of a University of Illinois study suggest that there are also academic benefits to physical education classes. The research, led by kinesiology professor Charles Hillman, suggests that physical activity may improve students’ cognitive functioning and result in better performance on academic achievement tests. The study authors recommended that high school students have 225 minutes of formal physical education each week.
Aerobic exercise helps the heart to become stronger and more efficient at delivering oxygen through the body. Team sports such as basketball, soccer, lacrosse, hockey and rowing help teens exercise their hearts and get the one hour of exercise they need each day. Individual activities such as running, swimming, dancing and tennis are also effective heart pumpers. All of these forms of exercise will help your teen to maintain a healthy body weight and lower the risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Weight-bearing exercises -- like running and walking -- can also increase bone strength and help to prevent osteoporosis.
Gym classes expose teens to a variety of exercise activities, many of which increase muscle strength. Strong muscles support joints and help to prevent sports-related injuries. Building muscle also helps your teen to burn more calories even when she's at rest. Gym class favorites such as pull-ups and push-ups are effective at building arm muscles, while running, squats and lunges work the muscles in the legs. Crunches, Pilates and yoga sessions help to create toned abs and a strong core.
Team sports and other cooperative gym class activities can help your teen to build social skills and make new friends. While teens are often wrapped up in their own thoughts and worries, being part of a team encourages them to think about others and to root for their teammates' successes. All the members of the team must work together for the benefit of the whole group. Team sports also nurture life skills such as patience and perseverance.
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