One of the best paths to a healthy mind is a healthy body.
Teenagers often lead busy lives, but they’re not always the most physically active lives. During adolescence, many kids spend hours in classrooms, using computers at home or hanging out watching movies or TV. Teens may not have the best dietary habits, either. It’s easy to opt for fast food on activity-filled school nights or to binge on sugar during a late night of studying. But the combination of inactivity and a steady diet of processed foods can have a negative impact on mood and behavior, in addition to the better-known threats to physical health.
However, when families make an effort to become more active and make more healthful food choices, they may notice an improvement in their teen’s behavior and attitude, too.
There are a number of reasons that a positive change in attitude might accompany positive changes in diet and activity. First, exercise has positive effects on the brain. Researchers at Duke University demonstrated that exercise has antidepressant properties. It boosts endorphins, the feel-good hormones that elevate mood.
In addition, physical activity – whether in the form of participation in an organized athletic team or an individual workout regime – provides a positive use of time for teens who need a little direction. If your daughter is practicing her backhand on the tennis court or training for her next 5K, she’s less likely to have the time to get into trouble after school or the desire to spend time with friends who don’t share her athletic ambitions.
Physical fitness can also create a point of pride for teens and help nurture healthy self-esteem and body image. When parents prioritize physical health by providing opportunities for exercise and a health-conscious attitude about food, it instills these values in the teen, too, and sets a foundation for lifelong healthy habits.
In addition to encouraging and facilitating exercise, sit down to healthy meals together as often as possible. Your teen is far more likely to eat a healthy meal if you make dinner time a standing family event than if she’s left alone to raid the fridge or grab something from a gas station or fast food restaurant.
Finally, model the behaviors and attitudes you want to see in your teen. Take care of yourself, and show your teen you care about your mental and physical health. Encourage wellness activities – take a yoga class with your daughter, or add a trip to the local farmers’ market to your standing weekend errands. Look for activities to spend time together being active – whether it’s hiking in a local state park or joining a local bike touring club. Even a scheduled evening walk together after dinner is a simple way to increase your activity level, boost endorphins and spend quality time with your teen.
To learn how Compass Rose Academy can help your family improve its wellness – and your teen’s behavior – visit www.compassroseacademy.org.