Teen physical activity rates too low

Teen physical activity rates too low


 While physical activity has endless proven benefits, 80% of teens are not meeting the exercise recommendation of one hour of vigorous exercise per day. In the U.S. daily P E is no longer a requirement at many schools, meaning teens need extracurricular physical activity or hobbies in order to reach the guidelines. 

 Kids and teens can greatly benefit from getting adequate physical activity. Exercise can improve attention span, mood, and sleep; reduce risk for chronic diseases later in life, and even help to normalize elevated cholesterol levels. Participating in sports teams can also be beneficial socially and help to improve communication and teamwork in a supportive environment. 

 While 60 minutes per day is the recommendation, it’s not necessary to complete the full hour at once. A few short bursts of activity have been proven to be as effective as a longer stretch of activity. For example, 60 minutes can easily add up by walking to school, taking the dog for a walk, and doing a short circuit workout. 

 If your child isn’t interested in traditional sports teams, there are plenty of options for getting movement in during the day. There are apps that can facilitate home workouts (check out the 7-minute workout), YouTube has hundreds of thousands of home workout options, and of course- simply talking a walk, jog, or bike ride can be easy and being outdoors has its own benefits. Your local community center or YMCA can be a great resource for workout opportunities.  

More exercise ideas for teens: 

  • Dance/ Zumba Classes
  • Walking 
  • Skateboarding 
  • Weight lifting 
  • Aerobic classes 
  • Bicycling 
  • Yoga
  • Resistance training – body weight
  • Hiking
  • Martial Arts 
  • Swimming 

Although sixty minutes per day is the recommendation, doing some exercise is always better than none. Starting with a few days per week or even 10-20 minutes per day can be beneficial. 

If you don’t have teens yet, getting younger children in the habit of exercising (through play) can be beneficial into the teen years, and for life.  Most families find it helpful to have activity scheduled ahead of time. Doing activities together as a family, such as going to the gym at the same time, hiking together, or participating in local runs or walks, or attending Walk with a Doc can ensure there is some physical activity on the schedule. 

Children’s Primary Care Medical Group is now offering Walk with a Doc, a free weekly walk for kids, teens, and families, at two convenient locations in North County. Walk with a Doc is offered in Vista on Thursdays at 4:15 at VIDA School and La Costa on Tuesdays at 4:00pm at Stagecoach Park. A healthy snack is always provided.  Check out walkwithadoc.org/Carlsbad for more information. 

 If you need assistance helping your kids or teens improve their health habits, contact the W.E.L.L. Clinic at Children’s Primary Care Medical Group. The W.E.L.L. Clinic specializes in helping kids, teens, and families make habit changes to improve health in the following areas: nutrition, physical activity, sleep, stress management, and screen time. To make a W.E.L.L. Clinic appointments in La Costa call 760-633-3640, and for Oceanside call: 760-547-1010. 


Guthold, R., Stevens, G. A., Riley, L. M., & Bull, F. C. (2019). Global trends in insufficient physical activity among adolescents: a pooled analysis of 298 population-based surveys with 1·6 million participants. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. doi: 10.1016/s2352-4642(19)30323-2

  • NOTE 6/23/20: because of COVID-19, group sports and gym activities are not available right now. But many of the other suggestions for physical activity can be done with your immediate family, individually or outside with proper six foot distancing and wearing of face coverings.