Guilt Trips Won't Get Teens to Exercise

Pressuring teens to exercise won't cause them to be more active, according to new research.

A study from the University of Georgia found that students who don't feel "in control" of their exercise decisions aren't as active as other teens - especially if they sense that exercise is an obligation demanded by adults.

Rod Dishman, the study's lead author and professor of kineseology at UOG, explained that teens' beliefs about exercise are directly related to their activity levels, making it important to expose adolescents to situations where they "value and enjoy" being active.

A critical time for creating healthy habits

The study is part of Dishman and colleagues' initiative to find ways to encourage exercise in children at an earlier age, which may include more community-based sports programs, structured games or activity-based classroom exercises.

According to Dishman, children tend to decrease their activity levels by 50 percent between fifth and sixth grade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that children and adolescents should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily, but most children do not.

Helping motivate kids to enjoy physical activity who aren't naturally inclined to sports or exercise is the key, Dishman said.

"Just like there are kids who are drawn to music and art, there are kids who are drawn to physical activity," he said. "But what you want is to draw those kids who otherwise might not be drawn to an activity."

Fun, Dishman offers, may be the best motivating factor - not pressure from parents or a sense of guilt.

"It's the kids who say they are intrinsically motivated who are more active than the kids who aren't."

Source: University of Georgia

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