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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.

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Sleep disorders happen in every age group -- infants to teens to the elderly. They can make you feel exhausted when you need to be alert. Have you ever fallen asleep in class and the more you tried to stay awake, the sleepier you felt? Suddenly, something startled you (like your teacher's voice!) and you woke up. You felt groggy and embarrassed, wondering what you missed while you slept. Luke (not his real name) had a hard time staying awake in his classes. He thought it was because math and...

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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:

  • Weight loss
  • Muscle strengthening and definition
  • Stronger bones
  • A lower heart rate
  • Better mood
  • An improved complexion

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.

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