It’s the 21st century and the modern world offers so many tempting opportunities to sit and do nothing physically. Television, video games, surfing the web and listening to music take up about seven hours of time a day for an average student. While this may be a lot of fun, it does mean that young people are becoming less active, leading to many problems when it comes to their health.

The good news is that getting physical doesn’t have to be a boring mission. A student needs to get one hour of physical activity a day, and this can range from taking part in organised sports, football or athletics, to more social activities like skateboarding or dance lessons.

The range of physical opportunities for teenagers has never been so wide, serious activities like gymnastics compete with fun times like roller derby, clubs or groups exist for everything from cycling to yoga and everything in-between.

Doing some form of exercise has a multitude of beneficial effects. It keeps weight down and improves physical appearance, something most young people spend a lot of time worrying about. If the physical activity is social, such as a team sport or something done in a group or a club, it also improves self confidence and social interaction, and sometimes more importantly, it provides an opportunity for fun.

Many teens enjoy the feelings of well-being, reduced stress, and increased strength and energy they get from exercise. It improves overall health, leading to less time spent feeling ill, and to a healthier life as you get older. The rise of type II diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity in young people is at a record high, and the only way to combat this is through getting ourselves moving.

Doing some physical activity is also an opportunity to assert your individuality. We define ourselves by what we do, it becomes our identity. Some people will describe themselves by their choice of activity, such being a dancer or a hockey player. In a sense, what we do becomes who we are.

One of the most important things about exercise for young people is that it has to be something you enjoy. If you enjoy an activity, you will be more likely to continue it, do it diligently and to take it seriously. If you find that you are not enjoying your chosen physical workout, then choose another. Not enjoying football, then take up skating; bored with dance lessons, then switch to martial arts. And keep switching until you find the thing that makes you happy.  

Lastly, physical exercise encourages the body’s production of endorphins, chemicals that improve mood. This reduces the risk of depression, increases self-esteem, builds self-confidence and promotes restful sleep. It also enhances thinking and learning skills and it may improve study performance.