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
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
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.
Department of Health and Human Services. “Adolescent Physical Development: Pubertal
Growth and Development.”
Institutes of Health: Health News. “Decline in Physical Activity Plays Key Role
in Weight Gain Among Adolescent Girls.”
Scouts. “Sports and Physical Activity.”
Sacheck, PhD, assistant professor, John Hancock Research Center on Physical Activity,
Nutrition, and Obesity Prevention, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
Greenspan, MD, Pediatric Endocrinology, Kaiser Permanente, San Francisco.
D. The American Academy of Pediatrics. The Complete and Authoritative Guide: Caring
for Your Teenager. Bantam Books, 2003.
from Nemours. “Why Exercise is Wise.”
and Human Services, girlshealth.gov.
Personal Trainers Organization. “The benefits of core training.”
Children’s Hospital-Denver Area, Colorado. “Compulsive Exercise.”
by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August
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