The importance of Physical Activity on the health and wellbeing of young people is crucially important. The following is advice from the NHS regarding the Physical Health and wellbeing of young people:
How much physical activity should children and young people do to keep healthy?
Children and young people need to do 2 types of physical activity each week:
- aerobic exercise
- exercises to strengthen their muscles and bones
Children and young people should:
- aim for an average of at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a day across the week
- take part in a variety of types and intensities of physical activity across the week to develop movement skills, muscles and bones
- reduce the time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity. Aim to spread activity throughout the day. All activities should make you breathe faster and feel warmer
What counts as moderate activity?
Moderate intensity activities will raise your heart rate, and make you breathe faster and feel warmer. One way to tell if you’re working at a moderate intensity level is if you can still talk, but not sing. Examples of moderate intensity activities:
- walking to school
- playground activities
- riding a scooter
- walking the dog
- cycling on level ground or ground with few hills
Examples of activities that strengthen muscles and bones for children include:
- games such as tug of war
- skipping with a rope
- swinging on playground equipment bars
- sit-ups, press-ups and other similar exercises
Examples of activities that strengthen muscles and bones for young people include:
- rock climbing
- resistance exercises with exercise bands, weight machines or handheld weights
- skipping with a rope
- martial arts
- sit-ups, press-ups and other similar exercises
Opportunities in school to maintain or improve physical health
There are many opportunities in school to help your child maintain or improve their physical health. Along with their normal weekly PE lessons there is a wide selection of extra-curricular curriculum activities to take part in either during or after the school day.
The importance of sleep to physical health and wellbeing
Feeling exhausted is so common that it has its own acronym, TATT, which stands for “tired all the time”.
We all feel tired from time to time. However, it has been estimated that amongst young people, 66% are regularly sleep deprived. The reasons are usually obvious and include:
- too many late nights (e.g. watching films, playing computer games, talking with friends)
- long hours spent working
- a baby keeping you up at night
Sleep is an active period in which a lot of important processing and strengthening occurs. Young people aged 6-13 need a recommended 9-11 hours of sleep per night to function effectively. Young people aged 14-17 need a recommended 8-10 hours of sleep per night.
But tiredness or exhaustion that goes on for a long time is not normal. It can affect a young person’s ability to get on and enjoy their life. It can lead to:
- Reduced decision-making skills
- Poorer memory
- Reduced concentration
- Reduced work efficiency
- Shortened attention span
- Increased risk for weight gain, depression, diabetes and cardiovascular Disease
- Reduced alertness
- Poorer judgement
- Reduced awareness of the environment and situations
- Slower than normal reaction time
Unexplained tiredness is one of the most common reasons for people to see their GP.
Why might your child be tired all the time?
Before you take your child to see a GP, you may want to work out how they become overly tired in the first place.
It can be helpful to think about:
- parts of their life that might be particularly tiring
- any events that may have triggered their tiredness, such as bereavement or a relationship break-up
- how their lifestyle may be making them tired (e.g. staying up late regularly, irregular sleeping patterns)
A GP will look at the following causes of tiredness:
- psychological causes
- physical causes
- lifestyle causes
For the purposes of this section, we will focus on the physical causes of tiredness.
Physical causes of tiredness
Tiredness can also be the result of:
- being overweight – your body has to work harder to do everyday activities
- being underweight – poor muscle strength can make you tire more easily
- side effects of some medicines
If your child has been feeling constantly tired for more than 4 weeks, it’s a good idea to go see your GP so they can confirm or rule out a medical condition that could be causing their tiredness.
Lifestyle causes of tiredness
In today’s 24/7 “always on” world, we often try to cram too much into our daily lives. To try to stay on top of things, we sometimes consume too much caffeine, or eat sugary and high-fat snacks on the go rather than sitting down for a proper meal.
The main lifestyle causes of tiredness include:
- Exercise – Too much or too little exercise can affect how tired you feel.
- Caffeine – Too much of this stimulant, found in tea, coffee, colas and energy drinks, can upset sleep and make you feel wound-up as well as tired. Try decaffeinated tea and coffee, or gradually cut out caffeine altogether.
- Daytime naps – If you’re tired, you may nap during the day, which can make it more difficult to get a good night’s sleep.
Tips for healthy sleep
In order to make sure young people can function effectively at school day-to-day, the following tips regarding sleep should prove useful:
- Ensure children take time to relax before they go to bed, rather than using technology to watch programmes or communicate with friends
- Get into a routine – some scientists have suggested that the routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time is just as important as how much sleep a child actually gets. The focus should be on quality of sleep, not necessarily quantity
- Bad food, bad sleep. Better food, better sleep – diet is a significant contributing factor to good or poor sleep
- Ensure children are active – this will ensure they are tired out by the end of the day
A teenager’s body goes through many physical changes-changes that need to be supported by a healthy, balanced diet.
Eating a varied and balanced diet should provide all the energy and nutrients needed allowing the body to grow and develop properly.
Eating healthily doesn’t have to mean giving up your favourite foods. It simply means eating a variety of foods and cutting down on food and drinks high in fat and sugar, such as sugary fizzy drinks, crisps, cakes and chocolate. These foods should be eaten less often and in smaller amounts.
If you’re watching your weight, a healthy balanced diet is the way to go. Dieting, skipping breakfast or starving yourself don’t work.
Healthy eating tips from the NHS
- Don’t skip breakfast – Skipping meals won’t help you lose weight and isn’t good for you, because you can miss out on important nutrients. Having breakfast will help you get some of the vitamins and minerals you need for good health.
- Get your five a day – Fruit and vegetables are good sources of many of the vitamins and mineralsyour body needs during your teenage years. Aim to eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and veg a day.
- Healthier snack ideas – Cut down on food and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt, such as sweets, chocolate bars, cakes, biscuits, sugary fizzy drinks and crisps, which are high in calories (energy). Consuming too many calories can lead to weight gain and becoming overweight.
- Stay hydrated – Aim to drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluids a day– water and lower-fat milk are both healthy choices.
- Feeling tired? – If you often feel run down, you may be low on iron. Teenage girls are especially at risk because they lose iron during their period. Try to get your iron from a variety of foods. Some good sources are red meat, breakfast cereals fortified with iron, and bread.
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D helps keep bones and teeth healthy. We get most of our vitamin D from the sun, but it’s also available in some foods.
- Calcium – Calcium helps to build strong bones and teeth. Good sources of calcium include milk and other dairy products, and leafy green vegetables.
- Fad diets – Diets that promise quick weight loss are often not nutritionally balanced, meaning you could miss out on important vitamins and minerals. They also tend to focus on short-term results, so you end up putting the weight back on.
Recommended calories for teenagers
These figures are only a guide. Young people might need more or less energy depending on a number of factors, including how physically active they are. These figures are based on NHS guidelines.