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Getting a Teen to Exercise

July 21, 2012

I am sure no expert on how to motivate teenagers to exercise.  In fact, I sometimes feel more like Kevin Spacey in The Negotiator.

Kevin’s character, Chris Sabian, is trying to get his family to go out to dinner.   Set in 1998, prior to the days of cell phone,  his teenage daughter is tying up their only phone line, and his wife is upset about a “fat in those jeans” comment.   He says after trying to “negotiate”:

“I talked a man out of blowing up the Sears Tower… but I can’t talk my wife out of a bedroom or my kid off a phone.”


If anyone knows the benefits of exercise, it’s me.   In 1999 I was diagnosed with cancer.  Prayer cured me, exercise and better eating habits changed me.

As a teenager, I often worked 4-5 nights a week until 11pm.  The only thing open on the way home was a Del Taco.  A fast-food joint that still calls my name even though I live about 1300 miles from the closest one.    I exercised a ton, as I played many sports and also rode horses competitively.   I didn’t know until looking at that riding a horse burns 517 calories an hour.    I was always called “skinny”, and never battled a weight issue.


Today, my biggest challenge comes with my son.  Even though he has played many sports in his life, and at certain times I couldn’t get him out of the pool, today he is 16 and I can’t seem to motivate him beyond his “Finger Exercises”, or playing video games.

Here’s 4 things I try:

1.  Make it FUN!   In the words of Mary Poppins, “Find the element of fun and “Snap”, the job’s a game!”    I was exhausted one night after playing tag for only a few minutes.  Stop, sprint, turn, dash, sprint…  they don’t even know they are exercising.

2.   Be the Example!   Today, I went about 8 miles, scoping out a few different trails.  My son often joins me, and we get special moments to talk.   When we work out together at home – he cracks me up by doing something goofy… but he exercises right alongside me.

3.  Do what they want to do!   Let them pick the activity.  Having the rule that either they pick, or I pick, enables us to spend lots of time doing what they want to do from a pre-selected list of activities.    He ran his first 5k when he was 5, and it was his idea to do a 1/2 marathon in 2010 – when he was 14.

4.  EDUCATE.  We’ve watched “The Biggest Loser“, and I’ve shared many health statistics about the benefits of being fit and exercising often.  We often talk about “wise choices”.   One night we were at Carl’s Jr.  (so much for the wise choices).   He wanted a Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream shake.  So, we went home, and I made him one (using Arbonne Chocolate Shake Mix), mint chocolate chips (for cookies), skim milk.  The result:  about 4 grams of fat.  Compared to the 34 at Carl’s Jr.

I’m very thankful for this post from  How to Motivate Kids to Exercise,  which also shares some of my ideas.


My challenge is still with how to get my son to do it without me, and create a genuine desire to exercise, for his own well-being.   To PLAY HARD.  LIVE WELL.   To take pride in who he is, not just what mom wants.

Open for ANY suggestions!


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