Being Active with My Teen

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adolescents and teens, to develop and support good health, should engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day (HHS, 2018). The benefits of physical activity include increased cognitive function, decreased chance of developing chronic diseases, improved mental health and enhanced overall well-being (Physical Activity Guidelines, 2018). However, helping adolescents and teens (ages 10 to 18 years old) maintain good levels of physical activity can be challenging for parents and caregivers. Parents may need to be creative to ensure their children are participating in the desired amounts of physical activity on a regular basis.

Parents should serve as role models and encourage teens to engage in some form of daily physical activity. There are many opportunities for teens to participate in physical activities each day, such as brisk walking, taking the stairs, conducting chores like vacuuming or cleaning surfaces, rearranging furniture, dancing, and playing with a pet. In addition, physical activity can be broken into chunks of time in order to accomplish the daily goal.

Below are some approaches to being active with your teen.

Set Goals. Busy schedules and after-school routines can make it difficult to find time to be active. Look at your calendar, see where you can carve out 60 minutes each day, and set a time as a daily goal (e.g., 30 minutes of running, 15 minutes of walking, 15 minutes of active games) (CDC, n.d.). Approach physical activity as a family event and reap the benefits. Consider your daily routines and family interactions as opportunities to model healthy physical behaviors, catch up on daily happenings, and strengthen your family’s bond. The Family Health Climate Scale (FHC) in 2014 analyzed the physical activity and nutrition behaviors in families and indicated that shared positive health behaviors positively affected everyone’s overall cognition, motivation, and behavior (Niermann, Krapf, Renner, Reiner, and Woll, 2014).

Any Mobility is Good Mobility.  Any amount of time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity contributes to health benefits such as lessening the chances of all-cause mortality, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes (HHS, 2018). Find two 30-minute windows that your family can carve out for a family activity. Family activities include inviting friends over to play badminton or volleyball, meeting neighbors in a near-by park to play basketball, playing in a local or backyard pool, or participating in local community events (Owen, Healy, Matthews, and Dunstan, 2018). You can break up your 60 minutes of activity by spending 10 minutes of your day climbing up and down stairs or a hill, taking turns doing push-ups (chair, wall, assisted, and regular) or sit ups for 15 minutes, walking around the neighborhood or a local park for 25 to 30 minutes, and using the remaining 5 to 10 minutes to carry laundry, carry groceries, jump rope, shop, or dance to your favorite playlist.

Reduce Sedentary Behavior. Sedentary behavior includes any behavior that requires a low energy expenditure. Some sedentary behaviors cannot be avoided due to work schedules and people needing to sit for long periods of time or time spent traveling in cars (HHS, 2018). Other sedentary behavior can be a choice such as spending hours in front of screens using social media, playing video games, or watching TV. Replace the screen time with an active family board game, like Twister or Seek-A-Boo, or play an old-fashioned game of Hide-and-Seek inside or outside.  Be willing to negotiate how to share the household chores as a family, for example someone dusts; someone vacuums; someone delivers the clean clothes to the various rooms. Plan exercise time together. Ask your family what exercises they enjoy doing and incorporate the exercises into a family activity. Ask each person to create and share a playlist on a specific and repeating day, like every Tuesday is Ryan’s turn to share his playlist. Always, remember to be encouraging and positive.

Promote Healthy Behaviors for the entire Family. The 5210 health-promotion initiative is a great place to find ways to encourage healthy behaviors. The number 5 represents how many servings of fruits and vegetables one person should consume in 1 day; 2, or less than 2, represents the number of hours one should engage in screen time per day; 1 represents the hour one should participate in physical activity daily; 0 represents the elimination of consuming sugary beverages.  For more information about 5210, visit the Tips for Families in the 5210 Family toolkit.   

Below are some moderate and vigorous activities to consider doing with your teen.

Moderate Activities Vigorous Activities
Martial Arts Team Sports (football, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, kickball)
Roller Skating Running
Yoga Mountain Climbing
Gymnastics Circuit Weight Training
Boxing using punching bag Wrestling
Aqua aerobics Step aerobics
Archery (non-hunting) Water polo
Walking downhill Skiing
Horseback riding Gardening
Snorkeling Moving furniture
Hunting large and small game Pushing a lawn mower
Kayaking on a lake Tennis (doubles)


This moderate and vigorous activities list was adapted from U.S. Department of Health and Human Service, Centers of Disease and Control Prevention, Promoting physical activity: A guide for community action, 2011.[i]



5210 Healthy Children Toolkit Tips for Families. (2017). Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at Penn State. University Park, PA. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Strategies to Prevent Obesity and Other Chronic Diseases: The CDC Guide to Strategies to Increase Physical Activity in the Community.

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at Penn State. (2018). 5210: Helping families lead healthier lives. Retrieved from

Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2020). Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity. Retrieved from

Niermann, C., Krapf, F., Renner, B., Reiner, M, & Woll, A. (2014). Family health climate scale (FHC-scale): development and validation.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018) Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. (2nd edition).

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Everyday Ideas to Move More (2013). Retrieved from