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Most Teens Know How To Be Healthy, And Falsely Believe They Are Healthy

Nielson Wire yesterday posted a summary of a Scarborough Research study that may surprise you. According to the study, teens actually know what “being healthy” means. As reported by Nielson Wire, “92 percent percent of teens aged 13-17 say that health and a healthy lifestyle are important and when asked to give themselves a “health report card,” 76 percent of teens gave a grade of B- or higher.”

Also of interest in the report is where teens get their health information. As opposed to using social networking, as we’d expect them to do given how important a role it plays in their lives, teens turn to parents first and then true internet searches second.

(source: Nielson Wire as seen in Scarborough Research report)

I don’t doubt that on some level our teens know they need to live a healthier lifestyle and desire to do so. But, all we have to do is look around any of our towns to know the majority of our teens are not living they healthy life…not yet. So, why the discrepancy? What needs to happen to help teens live the healthy life they desire?

The discrepancy may have a few root causes:

1. Unhealthy families: many of these kids have parents with weight issues…the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree so they may not be getting the encouragement to “live healthy”.
2. Lack of time for true exercise – while many teens are in sports, sports participation isn’t the same as true exercise and many kids don’t burn the calories many parents think they are burning.
3. Not knowing how to be more healthy.
4. The hurried child syndrome where childhood has become so busy there isn’t time for proper meals.
5. Not understanding their own bodies unique nutritional needs. The needs of a growing teen are different than they were when they were younger kids, especially as growth slows down. Our teens need help learning to eat more like adults and to eat in moderation and with the concept of “balance”. This will only happen if we lead by example and also have open conversations with them about food. This will also only happen if we serve food they enjoy eating!

How can we help our teens live the healthy life they desire?

1. Talk to your teen and really listen! Find out how your teen wants to eat and exercise. A friendly world of warning…it may differ from your own views but if that is how your teen wants to be healthy, help your teen with that goal because the teen years are the start of the eating and exercise paths for life.
2. Lead by example. Look honestly at how you eat and exercise and do what you need to to be more healthy.
3. Slow down the pace of the family week so there is time for family dinner each and every day.
4. Get every one in the kitchen cooking. I’ll be writing a lot more on this as the year goes on but I can tell you that a family who cooks together, becomes more healthy together!
5. Have your teen help you with the weekly family menu planning.
6. Consider a gym if you can afford it…teens love working with trainers and joining classes. Most communities have programs that are very affordable as do the local YMCAs.
7. Don’t by the junk if your teen asks you not to…that’s like having cigarette packs on the table when someone is trying to quit smoking.
8. Keep healthy snacks around such as fruit, veggie sticks, granola bars.
9. Talk to your pediatrician and address any medical issues if there are any that may be interfering with becoming more active.
10. Be encouraging!

The teenage years are when our teens are supposed to spread their wings and amaze us. If good health is where their wings are trying to take them, then our job is to hop on that path and tackle any obstacle in their way.

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Gwenn Is In*


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