Published on: Saturday, July 2, 2016 Takoma Park Newsletter

No couch potatoes here! Get out and play!

When you come home from work, is your teen parked on the couch watching television or playing a video game? Is he constantly monitoring his social media pages? Does she complain of hand cramps from text messaging? Just about everyone loves a lazy day on the couch with a favorite movie or TV show, but too much time in a sedentary mode can lead to obesity or other health problems.

Studies show that American children become sluggish during their teen years. While 90 percent of 9-year-olds get a couple of hours of exercise most days, fewer than 3 percent of 15-year-olds do. Physical education is no longer being offered as an everyday class in high school, and because of this, teens are getting less and less physical activity each day. If your teen is spending more time on the couch than off it, it’s time to help them get moving. Here are a few suggestions:

Be an example. Make sure your teen sees that you make exercising one of your priorities. Walk, bike, run or play basketball if that’s what you like to do. Just make sure he or she sees you staying active and having fun doing it.

Limit television and computer time. Set limits on television time (no more than one to two hours per day) and keep video game and recreational computer time to a minimum. Don’t put a television in your teen’s bedroom and keep the computer in a family area as well. If they must be inside, give them a chance to be active around the house or play activity-centered video games.

Create a family exercise time. Rather than a family movie night, get everyone together to go for a walk or a bike ride. Throw in a challenge by giving everyone a pedometer and seeing who can walk the most steps in a week. Another option is to have a family interactive game night.

Register for a recreation activity. The Takoma Park Recreation Department has several activities to keep your teen active during the summer as well as the school year. Registering your teen in an after school activity or summer camp gives them the opportunity to build friendships outside of school and motivates them to take part in activities within their community. Active lifestyles lead to being more attentive and active in school, and they will undoubtedly be healthier and happier.

Of course some days are just made for lazing around, and if it happens every once in a while, that’s fine. But every teen should have at least a few things he or she likes to do to stay active. Remember, we are our teen’s first and best teachers. If we want to effect real change in their lives, we have to be willing to take the first step and effect real change in our own. Only by setting an example can we truly inspire our teens to get up off the couch and out into the world.

The Recreation Department offers a “Teens on the Move” camp each summer, exposing teens to a variety of fun and active programs. There are four oneweek sessions held from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. in the month of July. There are limited spaces remaining, so don’t wait!

This article appeared in the July 2016 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.