Obese Teenager Diets & Exercises

Obese teenagers face a variety of emotional and physical problems that can last well into adulthood. These problems can produce self-destructive behavior, including a negative attitude toward diet and exercise. Creating an eating plan and exercise activities that teens enjoy, along with goals they can track, will produce self-esteem and motivation, and are the keys to ensuring success.

Always consult with a physician before starting any diet or exercise program

Make it “Play” vs. “Exercise” 

If teens feel they “have to” exercise, they’ll be less likely to maintain a workout routine. Create an exercise plan that allows teens to have fun while burning fat and building muscle. Let them play tennis, basketball, cycle, swim or dance. Add one day of “regular” exercise so they feel as if they are in a serious weight-loss program.

Add Fun Cardio Workouts

Fat-burning should be aerobic, which means the activity is moderately or vigorously intense for a sustained period of time. Your teen should be breathing hard, but able to talk during the activity. Starting with high-intensity activity may be dangerous for obese teens and may move into the anaerobic phase of activity.

Aerobic exercises can include: rollerblading, cycling, speed walking, ice skating, swimming, dancing, light jogging or using an exercise machine like a treadmill or elliptical. While an exercise machine may provide a better workout (more calories and fat burned), if your teen likes cycling or swimming, make the fun exercise the main component of his exercise routine to increase the chance he’ll continue to do it.

Build Some Muscle

Muscle-building exercises are important because muscle burns calories even when you’re not exercising. Strong core muscles can help reduce back problems caused by a large stomach. Bigger muscles also help you exercise longer. You don’t have to lift heavy weights to build muscle.

Strength exercises can include: bodyweight exercises such as push ups (on the knees for beginners), crunches (less movement than a full situp), chinups and pullups (with the help of a box) and squats and lunges. Try a circuit-training workout with with dumbbells or resistance bands. Breaking the exercises into two-minute bursts, or set of 10 to 12 repetitions, prevents boredom.

Some bodyweight exercises, such as pushups, pullups or chinups, may be difficult or impossible for obese teens. However, each time your teen tries, her muscles will get stronger through what are called isometric muscle contractions. For example, if she can’t do a complete pullup or chinup, have her try them for two minutes each workout — she’ll still feel a “burn” and her efforts will build muscle.

Include Them in Planning

Let you teen plan his menus, go shopping with you and prepare meals and lunches he takes to school. Teens are more likely to want to eat better if they help plan daily menus, and they’re less likely to throw out a lunch you send to school with them if they made it.

Let Them Eat More Often

One key to dieting is to avoid fasting, which leads to increased hunger and overeating. Eat the same amount of calories over five-to-six meals and snacks per day to maintain metabolism and calorie. Even eating every three hours is better than eating the same amount of calories twice or even three times per day. Additionally, sticking to a timetable for eating will result in your teen eating when they are not hungry, ensuring they receive their nutritional intake without overeating.

Buy Whole Foods

Getting your sweets from fresh fruit instead of a chocolate bar, or having a burger made from lower-fat, grass-fed bison or free-range turkey, are examples of letting kids eat foods they like without all the fat and preservatives of packaged foods. Have your teen pack a healthy lunch instead of giving him money for a school lunch.

Track Their Progress

Measure your child’s waistline and weigh your teen prior to starting a new diet and exercise routine. Do not weigh your child every day to prevent disappointment with poor, short-term results. Weigh and measure weekly for more realistic results. Remember, fat weighs more than muscle, so your child may actually not see a big weightloss result as they being to slim in appearance. Measuring may help by showing a decrease in waist line, even though there is not the same corresponding decrease in weight. Charts that show that their number of situps performed or hours on the treadmill are increasing each week will add self-esteem and further motivation.

Additional Resources

Children – Getting Them Active

A Sports Medicine Approach to Treating Childhood Obesity