Health and Fitness: How Hard Can it Be?

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How health conscious are teens these days? This question is commonly addressed among adults in our society. They see our habits from the side and constantly try to analyze. But their perspective means little, as nobody can better understand the mental processes of a teenager, than a teenager. Though I am not a health expert, I am a fifteen year old self-proclaimed health enthusiast. For the benefit of my peers, I plan on explaining to them what they can do to maintain constant, reasonably healthy lifestyles.

Sleep Solutions

High school is an extremely difficult time. It’s almost completely impossible to prioritize as opposed to procrastinate, and time management often gets set aside as the computer becomes the focal point of the day. Homework, extracurricular activities, and the necessity for a social life often come before the maintenance of proper sleep habits, and sleep deprivation is all too common. We often underestimate the effects of the latter on our systems. “Sleep debt” is piled up, and is often not replenished. According to the National Sleep Foundation (yes, this is real), teens need about 9 hours of sleep per day. To really get an understanding of teen sleep deprivation, I asked several teenagers how many hours of sleep on average they get per night. Most, like sixteen year old Ariel Aiash, answered with the standard “6 hours”, three less than what is considered necessary. Like your diet, your sleeping patterns can basically make or break you. Lack of sleep can have serious side effects. It can compromise your performance on exams, the way you look, the way you feel, and your general outlook on life.

Its NOT a Diet, Its a Lifestyle

Ah, the aforementioned diet. It’s a struggle that all teenagers face, whether they realize it or not. It takes time to recognize the difference between what simply tastes good, and what’s actually good for you. Teens feed off of convenience. Walking into a store and purchasing some pizza, a candy bar, and a soda is often far easier than preparing a homemade, balanced meal. Many don’t understand that if you don’t eat healthy, you don’t feel healthy. Lots of teens don’t have the resources or knowledge about healthy food, and are living off of junk on a daily basis. Simply put, a balanced meal consists of lean proteins, whole grains (“good carbs”), and fruits or veggies. It’s a matter of substitution. Change your white rice to brown rice, your hamburgers to grilled chicken, and your French fries to salad or green beans, and viola! You have a delicious, healthy meal. Vegetarians can find protein in super-foods like tofu and quinoa, and when eating fish, salmon can provide the healthy fat necessary for a consistent diet. The phrase “everything in moderation” is entirely applicable when picking which foods to eat. You don’t have to entirely cut junk food out of your diet, but limit consumption of your favorite unhealthy treats. Also, preparing your own food gives you a greater knowledge of exactly what you’re putting into your system, and will make you and your family members appreciate your newfound cooking abilities.

Eat Breakfast Like A King

Also, this may come off as an extremely stereotypical statement, but a balanced breakfast is the key to a healthy lifestyle. When asked what she typically eats for breakfast, seventeen year old Marissa Heringer stated “cereal and an apple”, while an anonymous seventeen year old source stated “usually nothing, because I’m in a rush before school.” Depending on the type of cereal, Marissa’s breakfast is a suitable option for a quick morning meal, while our unmentionable source seriously needs to rethink his/her morning routine. Some options for a quick and easy morning meal include oatmeal with fruit, greek yogurt, scrambled eggs and toast, and a peanut butter sandwich with fruit. To put it bluntly, preparing one of these meals is a minimal effort. Spend a few minutes less fixing your hair in the morning, and a few minutes more changing your lifestyle for the better.

Effects of Exercise

But wait, something’s missing! One crucial aspect of health that many modern day teenagers often leave by the wayside is their exercise. Computers and video games consume so much time, and often there’s none left for fitness. After interviewing several teenagers, the conclusion reached was that most work out four to five times a week, forty five minutes to an hour per session. Taking thirty to forty five minutes out of the day, at least several times a day, can greatly benefit one’s health as well as one’s mood.

Love Your Body

In today’s society, teenage girls are expected to look like the airbrushed models seen on magazine covers. Distorted body image is common, as teenagers struggle to reach unreasonable goals, and damage their own health in the process. The controversy over “thinspiration” has recently taken the web, and sites like Tumblr and Facebook are attempting to shut down any blogs that have to do with pro-eating disorder behavior. However, the notion of “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” causes many girls to turn to dangerous dietary restriction, in an attempt to look like the celebrities that they see on TV and in magazines. What these innocent teenage girls don’t know is that behind the uber skinny image of some celebrity bodies are anorexia and bulimia, drug use, and severe restriction that can lead to equally severe medical issues.

So what’s the final consensus? How health conscious are teens these days? And what do they need to do to become more educated and more aware of how to lead a healthy lifestyle? The bottom line is, there is no magic formula to leading a healthy lifestyle. There’s only so much advice that can be given, so much dietary expertise. In the end, it’s the teenager himself/herself that has to self-educate, and make the change necessary to achieve a healthy lifestyle!





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