By Joanne Barker
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD
You may think extreme exercise will help you look like a skinny model. That, and several other fitness traps, almost always ends in disappointment. Check out these popular fitness traps, and get the lowdown on healthy exercise.
Fitness Trap #1: Exercise to Lose Weight
You may see a bunch of twigs walking down the runway, but in real life, girls gain weight in their teens. This is normal. Putting on 40 pounds between age 10 and 14 is not unusual or unhealthy.
Does this mean you should just sit around get fat? No! Regular exercise can help you stay healthy as you develop. One study found that girls who don’t exercise gain an average of 10 to 15 pounds more than active girls. Something as simple as five 30-minute walks a week is all it takes.
Fitness Trap #2: Talk Yourself Out of Exercise
Maybe you think you look stupid or fat when you exercise. This keeps a lot of girls on the sidelines. Ironically, active girls say they feel better about themselves and their bodies, no matter how much they weigh.
Fitness Trap #3: Plan for Pain, Embarrassment, Boredom
OK, you hate the treadmill and loathe team sports. Then stay away from things that make you feel like a hamster or require hand-eye coordination. You still have options. Some girls stay away from ball fields, only to fall in love with dancing, yoga, and martial arts. Others find their bliss through biking, jogging, swimming, or taking long walks.
Fitness Trap #4: Do Only One Thing
Cross training helps build your overall fitness and helps you to not get injured. It also keeps things interesting. Here are the different kinds of exercise to work into your routine.
Good for: stronger heart and lungs
Examples: inline skating, dancing, walking briskly, jogging, biking, swimming
Good for: stronger muscles and bones
Examples: lifting weights, working with resistance bands, many kinds of yoga, rock climbing
Good for: stronger trunk, pelvis, and lower back, better balance
Examples: sit-ups, leg lifts, yoga, Pilates
Fitness Trap #5: Don’t Exercise Enough
Remember the study comparing weight gain in active girls to inactive girls? It only takes 30 minutes of activity, five times a week to make a difference. The key is finding things you enjoy and making them part of your life, like brushing your teeth.
Fitness Trap #6: Exercise Too Much
Some girls get obsessed and take exercise too far. Here are some signs of overdoing it:
You don’t take at least one day of rest every week
You feel exhausted all the time
Your periods stop -- if this happens or don’t get your first period by the time you turn 16, talk to your doctor about it.
Exercise is not just for boys and doesn’t have to be humiliating. Done right, it’s a great way to get strong and healthy.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Adolescent Physical Development: Pubertal Growth and Development.”
National Institutes of Health: Health News. “Decline in Physical Activity Plays Key Role in Weight Gain Among Adolescent Girls.”
Girls Scouts. “Sports and Physical Activity.”
Jen Sacheck, PhD, assistant professor, John Hancock Research Center on Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity Prevention, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
Louise Greenspan, MD, Pediatric Endocrinology, Kaiser Permanente, San Francisco.
Greydanus, D. The American Academy of Pediatrics. The Complete and Authoritative Guide: Caring for Your Teenager. Bantam Books, 2003.
TeensHealth from Nemours. “Why Exercise is Wise.”
Health and Human Services, girlshealth.gov.
The Personal Trainers Organization. “The benefits of core training.”
The Children’s Hospital-Denver Area, Colorado. “Compulsive Exercise.”
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 12, 2011
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