I’m a teenager, and I don’t know what workouts are appropriate for my age and which ones are not. I want to start working out, but it’s all confusing, and I don’t know where to start. Also, my mom won’t let me do the meal plans, but I want to start eating healthier. Help!
Motivated But Confused
First, can we talk about how amazing it is to have a community with so many young women who want to take care of their bodies?! I get questions alllll the time about eating healthy and working out from people around your age. It makes me so happy because I know how much better I would have felt if I had a healthy relationship with food and fitness in my life at that age. At the same time, I know how easily working out and eating healthy can take an UNhealthy turn. I’ve experienced it, and I want to do everything I can to help you and everyone else in this community avoid it.
I loooove being able to help others with what I know now and I think your question is going to help a lot of people!
So, is working out safe for teens? Yes! But here’s how to do it safely.
Activity is great at any age, but don’t take it too seriously.
Exercise is great for your physical and mental health, but the most important thing is to HAVE FUN.
I don’t want anyone at any age to treat working out as a punishment or a job.
The CDC recommends that teens get at least an hour of moderate exercise daily, and more strenuous exercise at least a few days a week. But “exercise” can mean a lot of things. It can mean anything from organized sports, working out in a gym, going on a walk, or even just playing outside.
Overall, most workouts are safe for teens. Some parents worry that strength training is risky for this age group, but according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the key is to do these workouts appropriately. In other words, don’t overdo it, and make sure you learn proper form.
I would recommend starting out with bodyweight exercises. Adding weights before you perfect your form only puts you at risk for injury. And honestly, bodyweight workouts are AMAZING. Once you feel like you’re ready to add some weight, do it gradually.
Give everything a try! Don’t be afraid to branch out and try new forms of exercise! I love switching up my workouts every now and then. It keeps it fun, works different muscle groups, and you never know what you’ll fall in love with.
REST. Start slow and remember that everyone needs rest. If you don’t, you’ll risk injury and burnout.
Hydrate and refuel. We’ll talk nutrition in a sec, but food and water are sooo important to workout safely.
Thoughts on nutrition.
I’m with your mom here on the meal plan. But let me tell you why!
Your nutrition needs are not the same as an adult. Your body is still growing and developing, which
A. Means your needs are constantly changing
B. Can require extra calories and other nutrients
If you were to follow a meal plan with set calorie and macro goals, you’d be taking a huge risk of not giving your body what it actually needs.
Speaking of needs, did you know that we’re born with a natural sense of appetite? What that means is, babies and kids will eat as much as they need – no meal plan required. As we get older, we lose some of that natural sense to regulate our needs because of certain “interruptions” like emotions and pressure from things like diet culture. It gets harder to stay in tune with our bodies.
In your teen years, your inner sense of hunger is still sooooo important to follow. Your appetite will ebb and flow as you grow and your nutrition needs ebb and flow. I think a meal plan could interrupt the process.
But I do have some tips if you want to incorporate more healthy foods! I asked my dietitian for her input too 😉
VARIETY. Be open to trying new foods, and expand your menu. Even if you stick to the same rotating meals or don’t have much control over the entreé because you’re not always cooking for yourself, try to switch up your sides and your snacks.
Although I don’t recommend following a meal plan at this age, the plan could help you brainstorm some healthy recipes to try. I also post super simple recipes here on the blog, and on my Instagram, and TikTok!
Next! Think about what you can ADD to your diet, not what you need to restrict. Cutting out your favorite foods isn’t cool, okay?! Instead, see how you can add nutrition to your meals! Add a side of fruit to your breakfast, or a side salad to lunch or dinner. Swap packaged snacks for something protein and/or fiber-packed like hard boiled eggs, toast with nut butter, or veggies and hummus.
So to sum this up – add foods to increase nutrition and follow your appetite.
Prioritize these things first.
A healthy lifestyle is about so much more than exercise and food. Ultimately, you have to include these things too, and now is a great time to start.
Body positivity: If I’m being honest, I did not love my body when I was your age. I wish I could go back and tell young Cassey how important this is! The comparison game will never get you where you want to be. How do you make this happen? Set goals for YOU. Work on being your best self. Celebrate the small stuff.
Self-care: Learning how to practice self-care and nurture mental health is one of the most important skills you can learn. Start NOW! Yes, exercise might be part of this, but so is staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and managing stress. If you make self-care a priority and practice these skills now, they’ll stay with you even in adulthood.
FUN: I’m gonna say it again because I am VERY passionate about this.
Check in with your doctor before ANYTHING ELSE!
Although I think falling in love with fitness at a young age is great, safety is SOOO IMPORTANT. So the first thing I want you to do is talk to your doctor. They know a lot more about your body and health than I do, so they’ll give you the best advice!
PS – If you have a burning question you want to ask me, leave your questions below! I may answer it in an upcoming Dear Cassey post!