How Regular Exercise Benefits Teens

You keep your skin clean. You condition your hair. You're eating right. You're doing all you can to look and feel great. But are you missing out on an important part of a healthier lifestyle?

No matter what your age or shape, you should exercise daily. Not only does exercise tone your body so you can wear your favorite jeans, it strengthens your muscles, keeps your bones strong, and improves your skin. And there are more benefits of exercise -- increased relaxation, better sleep and mood, strong immune function, and more. Let's look at some of the incredible benefits of exercise then talk about how you can get started.

Exercise and Your Weight

Because exercise helps use up oxygen, it causes your body to burn stored fat and helps you maintain a normal weight. For instance, if you walk 4 miles a day four times a week, you can burn about 1,600 calories or nearly half a pound a week. If you don't change your diet at all and keep walking the same distance over six months, you'll lose 12 pounds. Walk the same distance for a year and you'll drop 24 pounds.

The neat thing about exercise is you don't have to do it all at one time. After all, not many teens have time to walk 4 miles after school. But you can do 4 miles in short bursts throughout your day. Here's an idea of how to work that much exercise into your daily routine:

  • Take a 1-mile walk on a treadmill before school. Then, take a 1-mile walk around the track during school lunch period.
  • Take a 1-mile walk after school with friends or the family dog.
  • Take a 1-mile walk on the treadmill while watching your favorite show before dinner.

If you stay with the walking program, you'll see benefits with:

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Exercise and Your Muscles

Most people know that exercise keeps muscles strong. But did you know that strong muscles burn more calories? Muscle mass is metabolically active tissue. In other words, the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn even when you're not working out.

Studies estimate that for each pound of muscle you add to your body, you will burn an additional 35-50 calories per day. So an extra 5 pounds of muscle will burn about 175-250 calories a day -- or an extra pound of fat every 14-20 days.

Because guys have more muscle mass, they burn calories faster and lose weight more easily than girls. So, girls need to work out daily to stay strong and in shape.

Exercise and Your Bones

Regular, moderate exercise -- particularly weight-bearing exercises like walking, running, jogging, and dancing -- keeps your bones strong. Studies show that resistance (strengthening) exercises also boost bone mass and keep muscles strong.

Exercise and Your Skin

Exercise also boosts circulation and the delivery of nutrients to your skin, helping to detoxify the body by removing toxins (poisons).

As exercise boosts oxygen to the skin, it also helps increase the natural production of collagen, the connective tissue that plumps your skin. Your skin will "glow" after exercise, because of the increase in blood flow.

Exercise and Stress

Regular exercise reduces the amount of stress hormones in the body, resulting in a slower heart rate, relaxed blood vessels, and lower blood pressure. Increased relaxation after exercise shows on your face with reduced muscle tension.

Exercise and Your Mood

Research shows that regular exercise reduces symptoms of moderate depression and enhances psychological fitness. Exercise can even produce changes in certain chemical levels in the body, which can have an effect on the psychological state.

Endorphins are hormones in the brain associated with a happy, positive feeling. A low level of endorphins is associated with depression. During exercise, plasma levels of this substance increase. This may help to ease symptoms of depression. A recent National Health and Nutrition survey found that physically active people were half as likely to be depressed.

Exercise also boosts the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that send specific messages from one brain cell to another. Though only a small percentage of all serotonin is located in the brain, this neurotransmitter is thought to play a key role in keeping your mood calm.

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Exercise and Colds

Regular exercise appears to help jump-start the immune system, thus helping to reduce the number of colds, flu, and other viruses.

Keep in mind, however, that too much exercise can have the opposite effect; it can weaken your immunity to colds and other viruses and can lead to injury. Joint or muscle pain may be a sign. If you're doing intense workouts every day, consider alternating them with walking and upper-body lifting.

 

Exercise and Brainpower

Exercise boosts blood flow to the brain and helps it receive oxygen and nutrients. The better shape you're in, the faster you fire brain waves that are responsible for quick thinking.

So, for example, if math is a real problem, you may find that daily exercise helps to solve it!

Getting Started With Exercise

As you make the daily exercise commitment, be sure to include the following three types of exercise:

  • Range-of-motion, or stretching exercises. These involve moving a joint as far as it will go (without pain). You can do this with basic stretches or through dance, yoga, tai chi, and similar activities.
  • Endurance or conditioning exercises. Endurance exercises include walking, biking, climbing stairs, aerobics, and swimming. These exercises strengthen muscles and build coordination and endurance.
  • Strengthening exercises. Resistance exercises help build strong muscles. You can do them with ankle and wrist weights, free weights, resistance machines, resistance bands, or free weights (handheld weights).

Don't Forget Water

The more intense the training session, the more heat your body will produce. Before beginning exercise, drink water to help the body compensate for sweating. You can drink more water during exercise if you're thirsty.

The benefits of daily exercise are incredible, and they are free! Start a daily exercise regimen today, and enjoy all the proven "extras" that come with moving around more.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 24, 2017

Sources

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Donnelly, J. Best Practice and Research: Clinical Gastroenterology, 2004. 

Hoffman and Goetz L. Nutrition Reviews, 1998. 

Gura, S. Work, 2002. 

Health2Fit: "Health and Fitness Resources and Information." 

American College of Sports Medicine. 

CNN.com Health/Library. 

Mayo Clinic.

Kidshealth.org.

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