Exercise for Teenagers: A Complete Guide

Exercise for Teenagers: A Complete Guide

Physical exercise can improve both mental and physical health. Developing healthy habits, like exercise, as a teenager can lead to improved fitness in the short term and healthy habits for the entirety of your life. Everyone can experience the health benefits of exercise. Age, abilities, ethnicity, shape, and size do not affect its importance.

How Much Exercise Do Teenagers Need?

The CDC recommends that all teenagers need one hour or more of exercise daily. Physical activity includes sports, aerobic exercise like running and walking, and strength training. Only 10% of teenagers worldwide meet this recommendation (Source). It can be hard to get one hour of exercise per day. If it is difficult for you, the minimum amount is 30 minutes of exercise, three days per week.

What Are The Benefits of Exercise for Teenagers?

Teenagers who exercise are less likely to develop mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. Regular exercise has also been shown to improve the symptoms of ADHD in teenagers.

According to the American Heart Association, exercise benefits include the following:

  • Lower risk of future heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia, and several types of cancer,
  • Better sleep, including improvements in insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea,
  • Improved cognition, including memory, attention, and thinking speed,
  • Less weight gain, obesity, and related chronic health conditions,
  • Better bone health and balance,
  • Fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety,
  • Better quality of life.

For maximum benefits, include moderate and intense activity in your routine, with strength and mobility exercises.


Teenagers should get one hour or more of exercise daily. Exercise can include sports, aerobic activities (running and walking), and strength training. The minimum recommendation for exercise is 30 minutes, three days per week. Exercise benefits both your physical and mental health.

How Much is Too Much Exercise?

Exercise is anything that moves your body and burns significant calories, including walking, climbing stairs, and stretching.

There is such a thing as too much exercise. While teens need plenty of exercise, getting too much can cause many problems. While some work out more than others, too much can lead to injuries, reduced immunity, sleep issues, and mental illness. Focusing excessively on your body and exercising too much can lead to disordered eating. Too much exercise can cause some of the same chronic issues that not enough exercise can!

Signs of Too much Exercise

If you are worried that you might be exercising too much, here is a list of common signs, according to Everyday Health:

  • Extended Muscle Soreness: Muscle soreness after a workout should last three days, four at the most.
  • Decreased Immune Response: Getting sick more than usual is a sign of overtraining.
  • Increased Injuries: Frequent or recurring injury is usually a sign something is off.
  • Constant Fatigue, Irritability, and Low Energy: Being exhausted may signal you are pushing your body too far, too fast.
  • Getting Tired Early in Your Workout: Premature muscle fatigue is (usually) a sign something is wrong.
  • Hitting Performance Plateaus or Declines: Not bouncing back after a workout or making progress could show if you are pushing your body too much.
  • Increase in Resting Heart Rate: Frequent exercise should lower a person's resting heart rate, but overexercising can have the opposite effect, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine. An increase could be a sign of a problem or a cardiovascular change.
  • Prioritizing Workouts Above All Else: Ditching or avoiding social activities to work out usually signals there is a compulsion or an unhealthy work-life balance.
  • Depression or Anxiety: Exercise is (and should be) a mood booster, but too much can leave you feeling sad or lethargic. Those struggling with overexercising disorder may also feel anxious and nervous at the thought of missing a workout, according to ACE and HSS.


Over-exercise can be harmful. Symptoms can include: extended muscle soreness, decreased immune response, fatigue, etc.

Exercise is Fun!

Framing exercise as an unpleasant activity will increase your burnout and decrease happiness. There are many ways to exercise, from jumping rope to walking to weight lifting. Choose the exercise type that is right for you, and you are sure to look forward to your workouts!

What Are The Best Types of Exercises for Teenagers?

A good exercise routine can include cardio, strength training, and mobility work. Teens with sports as part of their life should know that stretching is an important activity to improve reaction time, balance, and strength.

Is Lifting Weights Safe for Teens?

Many teens wonder if it is safe for them to lift weights. Research says yes, as long as they are not too heavy. You can increase your strength while reducing injury risk by using lighter weights and doing more reps.

Exercise Modifications for Overweight Teens

If you are overweight or looking to lose some weight, be careful, and ensure you are not over-exercising. Here are some tips for developing a healthy relationship with exercise from the beginning:

Combine Healthy Eating and Exercise

Exercise burns calories and is vital in losing, maintaining, and gaining weight, but diet is more important. Combining physical activity with a proper diet will help you have a healthy weight-loss journey.

Make it Fun

Instead of limiting yourself to only intense exercise, focus on fun activities like hiking or jumping rope in your exercise schedule. Having fun while exercising is key for long-term weight loss and happiness.


Even if you are a teenager who is overweight, there are still numerous opportunities to incorporate exercise into your life. You can make this easier by combining healthy eating with being active and creating fun exercises.

Exercises to Try

If you want to get started with exercise, you are probably wondering about basic movements. Here are some moderate-intensity activities you can do quickly and easily in your spare time.


Lunges strengthen your lower body while increasing your heart rate and challenging your balance.

  1. Starting in a standing position, step forward with one leg, and bend both knees as you bring your back knee toward the floor, making sure not to allow your knee to go over your ankle (if this happens you may hyper-extend your knee). Keep your chest high and shoulders over your hips.
  2. Push back on your front leg to return to the starting position.
  3. Repeat.


Push-ups strengthen your upper body and core.

  1. Start in a plank position, facing the floor with your hands about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Tighten your core to keep your body in a straight line as you bend and straighten your arms, lowering your chest toward the floor and touching it if you can. You can play around with different push-up styles by changing your hand position and location. For example, a diamond push-up is where you make a diamond with your fingers.
  3. Repeat.


Squats strengthen your lower body and core and can be easily modified to be more challenging by holding weights.

  1. Stand with your legs about shoulder-width apart. Keep your chest high, bend your hips, and bend down as if you were going to sit in a chair.
  2. Push into the floor as you rise back to standing.
  3. Repeat

Hip Bridges

This final exercise will strengthen your lower body and core.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your heels close to your hips. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  2. Push into your feet and contract your glute muscles to lift your hips until you have made a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Make sure not to arch your back.
  3. Keep your core engaged as you lower your body to the floor.
  4. Repeat.


Many fun exercises are available for teenagers to participate in during their free time, including lunges, push-ups, squats, and hip bridges.


It is easier than it has ever been before to not exercise, especially for teens. Exercise is still just as important. Physical activity has numerous proven health benefits, including improving your quality of life and mental and physical health.