With much of the country under stay-at-home orders, the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect every aspect of our daily lives. This is perhaps particularly true for parents of teenagers. Without the structure of a normal school day, you may find that your teenager is bouncing off the walls – or staying up late texting friends, then sleeping until noon.
While teens are adjusting to distance learning, many working parents are navigating the shift to working from home. That means that on top of answering email, troubleshooting the WiFi, and tidying up just in time for videoconference meetings, parents must also keep their teens on task with schoolwork. Keeping them fit and active on top of everything else might start to seem like a stretch.
Yet you know they need exercise to stay mentally and physically healthy. But with gyms and parks closed, and organized sports cancelled for the foreseeable future – what do you do?
Whether your teen is athletic or a couch potato, there’s an option for them during this difficult time.
Most states have designated gyms and fitness centers as nonessential businesses. That means that during the pandemic, they’re closed. While this seems like bad news for staying in shape, the good news is that many gyms have pivoted to offer classes through Zoom, the popular online videoconferencing app. Many fitness instructors, now out of work or on furlough, are doing the same on their own time, offering private one-on-one instruction as well as group classes.
Don’t want to download Zoom or pay for classes? Plenty of fitness gurus host free, guided workouts on Instagram Live, IGTV, Facebook Live, Community, or YouTube. From boxing to yoga to Pilates and Zumba, you can find something your teen can do from home that will come close to the workout they’d get in a gym.
Even before the pandemic hit, people used smartphone apps to help them stay fit. This comes in handy now, because these apps offer programs tailored to every fitness level, from beginner to competitive athlete. Your adolescent may be the type that needs reminders, structured goals, and calendars to stay on task. Or, they may prefer a simple app that tracks miles or times their workouts.
Whatever the case, there’s an app for that.
The Johnson & Johnson Official 7 Minute Workout is great for a short dose of fitness, with exercises that can be modified for beginners or experts. MyFitnessPal, Shred, and Nike Training Club are just a few of the popular apps that help you set goals and track progress. Charity Miles has an added feature that’s popular with idealistic teens: it lets you find sponsors and raise money for every mile run. And Runtastic is a simple and popular app geared toward runners.
Group workouts, goals, and tracking apps aren’t for everyone. Let’s say your teen is more the type to brood alone in his or her room. Or maybe you don’t want to steer them toward more screentime when school, socializing, and leisure time have all suddenly become screen-based. Then again, you may be lucky enough to have a somewhat self-directed teenager, perhaps one who’s already athletic and invested in staying strong and fit.
If any of these situations sounds like your teen, consider pointing them toward a bodyweight workout. With a few simple exercises, they can design a workout and change it up every day. The classics bodyweight moves are pushups, lunges, planks, and situps. There are hundreds more classic exercises that utilize bodyweight or light weights alone. A quick Google search will give you plenty of options, like this Men’s Health article, or this detailed breakdown of 53 moves, complete with animated gifs.
Take a Walk
If none of the above options seem quite right for your teen, consider the simplest option of all: take a walk together. As the initial wave of coronavirus subsides, parks and beaches will reopen. Some are open already. With proper social distancing, outdoor exercise can be just what the doctor ordered as an antidote to weeks on end of staring at the same four walls. In fact, there may be many benefits you hadn’t anticipated.
Proponents of walk talk therapy have begun to tout walking outdoors as an aid to communication and connection between people. The distraction of a simple physical activity allows walkers to relax and let go of forced small talk, letting silences fall and conversation flow more naturally. Of course, you’re not your teen’s therapist. But studies suggest walking in a natural setting can have benefits that encourage people to relax and connect with each other. And exercise is a natural antidepressant: the mental health benefits are well-documented, and complement the boost to your teen’s fitness – and yours.
Whatever option you and your teen choose, remember that these are unusual times. You don’t have to come out of quarantine in a state of peak physical fitness, learn a new sport, or lose ten pounds. Simply encourage your teen to do a little each day to get his or her heart rate up. That’s a reasonable goal, and one that will help both you and your teen get through this unusual and difficult time.