How to Safely Exercise If You're a Teenager

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If you're in your teens, you may be confused about how to exercise to get stronger, stay healthy or possibly even lose or gain weight. The good news is, there's no right way to work out and no specific exercise you have to do to be considered fit. Even so, it helps to learn about the different ways you can work out as a teenager so you can have fun, reach your goals and avoid injuring yourself.

Exercise Do's

The great thing about exercise for teens is that just about any activity that gets you moving will work. You should try to get in more strenuous exercise in for about an hour a day at least three days a week and regular, more moderate activity during the rest of the week. Below are the different types of activity to include each week:

Everyday Activities

Aside from participating in a sport or other activities like running or riding your bike, you should also include regular activity into your day, which means limiting how much time you sit at the computer or play video games. This can include active games (like Wii or Dance Dance Revolution), taking walks, wrestling with your friends or tossing a ball in the backyard. This is something you can do every day, especially on the days you aren't doing harder, more structured workouts.

High-Intensity Cardio

High-intensity cardio includes sports like football, tennis, soccer, volleyball, basketball, etc. It also includes brisk walking, running, cycling, or swimming. Always make sure you're wearing the proper protective gear whatever activity you choose.

Lifting Weights

This type of strength training helps you build strength and endurance. It can involve unstructured activities like using playground equipment or climbing trees. It can also include structured strength workouts with exercises like squats, push-ups or crunches using weights, machines, or your own body weight.

Always work with an adult, coach, trainer, or other experts before you start lifting weights to make sure you know how to correctly perform the exercises you're attempting. You may already lift weights if you're playing a sport, but if not, you can add this type of activity two to three days a week, with at least one day of rest in between.

Exercise Don'ts

Activities teens should limit or avoid include the following:

Avoid Excessive Exercise

Exercising too much can also lead to injuries, overtraining and, for girls, a change in menstrual cycles that could lead to bone loss. It's sometimes hard to know how much is too much since everyone can tolerate a different amount of exercise. However, exercising several times a day or for several hours is probably too much on anyone. Following the guidelines and exercising about an hour a day is a good place to start.

Avoid Powerlifting

This type of training involves explosive lifting, often focusing on how much you can lift at one time at a maximum. This type of training isn't recommended for teens because it's difficult to use good form and the body may be stressed too abruptly, causing injury.

Don't Expect Unrealistic Results

While it's fine to have goals to improve your body, we can't always control what we can change. If you want bigger muscles, that's something that happens after puberty, although you can always build strength at any age.

If you want to lose weight, exercise and a healthy diet are key, but you can't expect dramatic weight loss to happen overnight. Permanent, safe weight loss is a slow process and trying to speed it up with unhealthy diets or excessive exercise often backfires and wouldn't be sustainable, anyway.

Tips for Getting More Exercise

If you're into sports, you probably have practice, games and other activities to keep you busy. If not, you may have to be creative about exercise, especially if you haven't had a chance to practice different activities to find what you like and what you're good at. Some ideas include:

  • Asking your parents if you can go to the gym with them or if there's a local community center where you can exercise
  • Creating a new routine where you walk, inline skate or run every day when you get home from school or before dinner. If you don't want to exercise outside by yourself, ask your friends or a family member to go with you or use an exercise video in your own bedroom.
  • Doing chores. Raking leaves or sweeping the driveway can actually burn calories while making your parents happy.
  • Doing some bodyweight exercises at home, such as squats and sit backs
  • If you're hanging out at the mall or local shopping center, walk around rather than staying in one spot, such as the food court
  • Taking the dog for a long walk
  • Walking, biking or skating to and from school, if that's an option

A Word From Verywell

Regularly exercising is an important part of any teen's development and overall health. Write down things you think you'll enjoy and make a commitment to do them on a regular basis. If you don't know where to start, talk to your friends, family or even your doctor about what you can do. Remember that any activity that gets you moving will work, so start with something you like and focus on having fun.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Healthy Schools: Youth Physical Activity Guidelines.

  2. Mccambridge TM, Stricker PR. Strength training by children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2008;121(4):835-40. doi:10.1542/peds.2007-3790

Additional Reading

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."