We’re often very aware of the benefits of exercise both to our physical and mental health. But with everything else going on in life it can be challenging to keep up a routine.

Happy and healthy for life

Getting into the habit of exercising is worthwhile at any age. However, it’s particularly good for younger people, not only for their immediate health but also to build good fitness levels for life.

The National Guidelines for Physical Activity in Ireland recommends young people are active for at least an hour daily. It’s suggested that activity is moderately to vigorously exerting, anything from brisk walking to team sports.

Benefits of exercise

  • improved strength, fitness and energy
  • better concentration
  • increased self-esteem and confidence
  • better sleep
  • improved metabolic rate, preventing weight gain
  • helps to clear your head if you have a lot on your mind
  • helps to manage stress and anger
  • wider social circles when joining a club or team.

Tips to help get young people active

  1. Some is better than none! Any amount of exercise gives health benefits.
  2. Set short-term achievable goals. Aim for short bouts of activity like walking ten minutes a day, three days a week. When this is managed well, increase your distance, time or level of intensity.
  3. Encourage them to keep a diary/chart. Recording progress is encouraging and can help keep up motivation.
  4. Keep it enjoyable. They’re more likely to stick with it if they’re doing something they like and are enjoying themselves.
  5. Keep it varied. Choose at least a couple of activities to help maintain interest and prevent boredom.
  6. Build it into their routine. Encourage walking or cycling to school, college or work. It’s a great way to get active everyday.
  7. Encourage them to try something new, exciting or challenging. Find out it there’s anything your son/daughter wants to try, encourage them to think outside the box .
  8. Look out for out-of-school, college or work activities. Find out what’s available in your local community.
  9. They don’t have to give up the computer completely. If they like games, encourage active over sedentary games.
  10. Support the transition from primary to secondary school, as it can be a time when interest in activity declines. It’s important to support and encourage their interests in sport and extracurricular activities during this period.

For more information go to Get Active

Rates of obesity

According to the Irish Heart Foundation one in five teenagers and two in five adults are overweight in this country. One in four adults and one in ten children are classified as obese.

Common in childhood

They state that being overweight and obese is the most common childhood disorder in Europe.

A lack of physical activity coupled with increased consumption of high fat and high sugar foods has made a major contribution to the number of overweight young people in this country.

Other weight related disorders

Numerous studies have reported many young people are dissatisfied with their weight and have a distorted view of their body image. It’s suggested that current social pressure to conform to an ‘ultra-slim’ image may contribute to young people’s dissatisfaction with their weight.

The fear of being overweight, and eating behaviours that go along with it (skipping meals, fasting etc.) are often associated with low intakes of important nutrients.

Extreme cases

More serious eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating can develop.

If you’re concerned your son or daughter may have an eating disorder, Bodywhys, the national organisation supporting people affected by eating disorders provides information and support.


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