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The Comprehensive Teen Exercise Guide: Building a Strong Foundation for a Healthy Lifestyle

Dr. Craig Smith, MD

4 Min read

Teenagers experience rapid physical and emotional development, making regular exercise a crucial component of their overall well-being. Engaging in physical activity not only helps teens maintain a healthy weight but also promotes strong bones, muscles, and mental health. This comprehensive teen exercise guide aims to address various aspects of fitness, including cardiovascular health, strength training, flexibility, and the importance of a well-balanced approach.

Cardiovascular Exercise:

Cardiovascular exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy heart and improving overall endurance. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week. Cardiovascular activities for teens include:

a. Running and Jogging: Lace up your sneakers and hit the pavement. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), running or jogging can significantly improve cardiovascular health by reducing the risk of heart disease and obesity in teens.

b. Cycling: Whether it's a bike ride around the neighborhood or a cycling class, biking is a low-impact and fun cardiovascular exercise. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends cycling as an effective way to improve heart health.

c. Swimming: Dive into the pool for a full-body workout. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) notes that swimming is a low-impact exercise that can enhance cardiovascular fitness without putting stress on joints.

d. Team Sports: Engaging in team sports like soccer, basketball, or volleyball not only provides cardiovascular benefits but also fosters teamwork and social skills. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) highlights the positive impact of team sports on mental well-being.

e. Dance: Whether it's taking a dance class or just dancing around the house, this enjoyable activity is an excellent way to get the heart pumping. The Mayo Clinic suggests that dancing can improve cardiovascular health and boost mood.

Strength Training:

Building strength is crucial for teens as it supports healthy growth, improves metabolism, and helps prevent injuries. However, it's important to focus on proper form and avoid excessive weightlifting. Bodyweight exercises and light resistance training are suitable for teens:

a. Bodyweight Exercises: Include push-ups, squats, lunges, and planks to build strength using your own body weight. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), bodyweight exercises are safe and effective for teens when performed with proper technique.

b. Resistance Bands: Incorporate resistance bands for added resistance during exercises like bicep curls, shoulder presses, and leg lifts. The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy emphasizes the versatility and safety of resistance band training for adolescents.

c. Weight Machines: If using gym equipment, start with low resistance and focus on mastering proper form before gradually increasing the weight. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that supervised weight training can be safe and beneficial for teens.

d. Core Exercises: Strengthening the core with exercises like crunches, leg raises, and bicycle crunches contributes to overall stability and balance. The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) emphasizes the importance of core strength for injury prevention.


Flexibility exercises enhance joint mobility, reduce the risk of injury, and contribute to overall physical well-being. Include stretching activities in your routine:

a. Static Stretching: Hold stretches for 15-30 seconds, targeting major muscle groups like hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. The American Council on Exercise highlights the role of static stretching in improving flexibility and reducing muscle stiffness.

b. Dynamic Stretching: Incorporate dynamic stretches like leg swings, arm circles, and hip circles before engaging in more intense physical activity. According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, dynamic stretching can enhance flexibility without compromising muscle strength.

c. Yoga: Explore yoga to improve flexibility, balance, and mental focus. Many beginner-friendly yoga routines are available online. The Journal of Physical Activity and Health suggests that regular yoga practice can positively impact both physical and mental health in adolescents.

d. Pilates: Pilates focuses on core strength and flexibility. Incorporate Pilates exercises into your routine for a well-rounded approach. A study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science indicates that Pilates can improve flexibility and postural control in adolescents.

Balance and Coordination:

Improving balance and coordination is essential for injury prevention and overall physical competence. Simple activities can help enhance these skills:

a. Single-Leg Stands: Practice standing on one leg to improve balance. Progress by closing your eyes or adding small movements. The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy notes that single-leg balance exercises can enhance stability and reduce the risk of ankle injuries.

b. Balance Exercises: Utilize stability balls, balance boards, or wobble cushions to challenge and enhance balance. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research highlights the effectiveness of balance training tools in improving dynamic stability in adolescents.

c. Coordination Drills: Engage in activities that require hand-eye coordination, such as juggling, jump rope, or agility ladder drills. The Journal of Motor Learning and Development emphasizes the positive impact of coordination drills on overall motor skills and athleticism.

d. Martial Arts: Consider taking martial arts classes to improve not only balance and coordination but also discipline and self-confidence. The Journal of Physical Activity and Health suggests that martial arts training can positively influence physical fitness and psychological well-being in adolescents.

Mind-Body Connection:

Exercise goes beyond physical health; it also contributes to mental well-being. Encourage mindfulness and stress reduction through activities like:

a. Meditation: Dedicate a few minutes each day to mindfulness meditation to reduce stress and improve focus. The American Psychological Association (APA) highlights the mental health benefits of meditation for adolescents, including reduced anxiety and improved emotional well-being.

b. Outdoor Activities: Connect with nature by engaging in activities like hiking, biking, or simply taking a walk in the park. According to a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, spending time in nature can positively impact mental health in adolescents.

c. Team Sports: The camaraderie in team sports can provide a sense of belonging and social support, positively impacting mental health. The Journal of Youth and Adolescence notes that participation in team sports is associated with lower levels of depressive symptoms in adolescents.

d. Adequate Rest: Ensure that teens get sufficient sleep to support recovery and overall well-being. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 8-10 hours of sleep per night for teenagers to promote optimal physical and mental health.

Incorporating a well-rounded approach to exercise is crucial for teenagers to develop healthy habits that will benefit them throughout their lives. This comprehensive teen exercise guide covers cardiovascular health, strength training, flexibility, balance, coordination, and the mind-body connection. By making physical activity a fun and integral part of their routine, teens can lay the foundation for a healthy and active lifestyle. Always consult with a healthcare professional or fitness expert before starting a new exercise program, especially if there are pre-existing health conditions or concerns. Encourage teens to stay informed, set realistic goals, and enjoy the journey to a healthier and more active life.

About the Author

In 1984, Dr. Craig Smith founded Lifesource. As a coach, he's worked with world-class athletes and guided thousands towards successful weight loss. Driven by a desire to elevate his understanding of the human body, he returned to the rigors of medical school in his 50s, achieving his goal of becoming a physician at 56. Now in his 60s, Dr. Smith leads by personal example, continuing to inspire, educate and empower individuals from all walks of life to achieve their health and fitness goals. If you wish to train and diet online with Dr. Smith, hear his message and schedule a 45-minute consultation on the New You page.