How can we help teens and young adults learn to keep their bodies healthy?
It is often easy for teens to pay no attention to their bodies. They are young and their bodies are strong and don’t give them much reason to notice. But we create many of our future adult habits when we are young. Therefore it is a good time to develop healthy habits when we are young as a part of everyday life.
As teens grow, they should take more and more control of their own health and habits. Even if teens need help with some of these activities, they can work towards being good managers of their own bodies. Teens and young adults should learn good habits for healthy eating, exercise, hygiene, sleep and stress management. They also should know how to keep their bodies safe and avoid risky behaviors.
Sometimes it is helpful to think about the human body as a machine or a car. How can we treat our human machine so that it works for us for a long time? It takes practice. It takes seeing good examples and helpful role models.
- Healthy eating: Machines needs the right fuel to run well. If you put the wrong fuel in the gas tank, your machine will stop working. ChooseMyPlate.gov offers several resources for teens to learn and create good fueling plans for their bodies. Healthy nutrition is easier when the whole family tries to eat healthy together.
- Exercise: If a machine is never used, it gets harder for it to run smoothly. Physical activity is good way to keep your body’s engine in shape and ready to do what you need. Fitness programs include a mix of aerobic activity that gets your heart rate up as well as strengthening and stretching activities. Walking, biking, dancing and jumping rope are aerobic ideas. Yoga is a strength and stretching type of activity.
- Hygiene: If you never clean your car, the body will start to wear out and rust. Hygiene for human bodies includes dental care and showering or bathing. It is also a great habit to wash hands regularly throughout the day to keep from catching infections.
- Sleep: If you run a machine all the time and never let it rest, it burns out. Sleep is important for mental and physical health. An average teen needs eight hours or more of sleep each night. Having a bedtime routine, avoiding screen time or heavy exercise right before bed and laying down in a quiet, dark room all help promote better sleep.
- Stress management: If you build up too much pressure in an engine, it can explode. Stress happens in all our lives. It can make our emotions feel on edge. Teens may need to learn how to recognize their own stress, and then practice ways to prevent it and deal with it. Here are a few ways to manage stress:
- Talk to a trusted friend or adult
- Write in a journal
- Practice deep breathing
- Imagine a happy memory
- Do something else that you enjoy
- Talking with a counselor if that is needed or desired
- Avoid risky behaviors: If you go speeding in a car, you are more likely to lose control and crash. Young adults will face risky temptations in the world and they will need to make decisions about their choices. Examples of risky behaviors include texting while driving, cigarette smoking, drinking alcohol or taking non-prescribed drugs. If teens practice skills in “saying no” to avoid risky situations, they are more likely to have the skills to keep saying no once they are older. Role models are important as well.
Visit the trusted websites below to learn more about maintaining healthy habits.
- ChooseMyPlate.gov. This website run by the United States Department of Agriculture provides many resources and tools for healthy eating and physical activity.
- Youth.gov. This federal site offers information about several mental health conditions with treatment and support resources.