to Help Your Teen Start Exercising

6 Ways to Help Your Teen Start Exercising

A good exercise routine is important for anyone looking to lead a happy, healthy life. Helping your teen develop a positive relationship with exercise will undoubtedly help them moving forward, but convincing screen-happy teens to get off the couch and into the gym can be a difficult task.

Letting your teen neglect exercise can lead to moodiness and health issues, but we’ve compiled 6 of our top tips for helping your teen develop a healthy exercise routine. Hopefully, with the help of this article, you can set your teen on the path towards an active, healthy adult lifestyle. 

Finding Self-Motivation

Your teenager will be more inclined to do something they’re passionate about, as opposed to something their parents force them to do. The same holds true for exercise. If your teen finds exercising to be in their own self-interest, they’ll respond better.

As a parent, you can help them make the connection between exercise and their current goals and interests. If your teen wants to meet new people and make more friends, for example, you can let them know how joining an exercise club or sports team will introduce them to people with mutual interests.

Your teen might have a hard time sleeping, but studies show that exercise helps eliminate groggy feelings throughout the day and actually makes falling asleep easier.

In both of these situations, exercise will help your teen accomplish something they’re already working towards. This approach might make even defiant teens more inclined to exercise.  

Starting Small, Working Up 

Working out has a reputation for grueling intensity, which is often a deterrent to teens who aren’t already accustomed to regular exercise.

However, make it clear to your teen that all people start off at ground zero. If your teen is worried about their physical capacity for exercise, or scared they won’t be as “good” as other people, help them set small, attainable goals to start.

This might look like 10 minutes of exercise a day, a certain amount of pushups to do, or scheduling a daily walk. Lowering the bar will make exercise feel attainable and less intimidating to your teen. 

Once your teen can easily accomplish their tiny tasks, you can help them incrementally increase their routine over time. Eventually, this may even turn into a full workout routine!

The point is to make each jump manageable in order to gradually build your teen’s stamina and confidence. 

Setting an Example

Teenagers are more likely to learn from observing than being told what to do. Because of this, setting a positive example for your teen to exercise regularly will be more effective than simply encouraging them to build a routine.

And besides, if you don’t set a good example, why should your teen listen to someone who doesn’t follow their own advice?

If you do exercise, it’s a good idea to share with your teen how good you feel afterwards. It’s also important to let your teen know you make yourself exercise even when you’d rather be laying down, watching TV, or doing anything else.

By showcasing your own exercise habits, your teen might be less intimidated at the prospect of working out. 


Making it Fun

One reason your teen might not be exercising is because they thing all exercise is a chore or that it’s hard to do. But it doesn’t have to be!

Examples of “fun” exercise are hiking, running on a trail, surfing, mountain biking, skateboarding, and rock climbing, along with most organized sports.

All of these activities center around physical exercise. It might not be as hard as you think to convince your teen that exercise can be fun, especially if they’ve already shown interests in one of these activities before. 

Being Social 

Studies show that working out with other people makes it easier to stay dedicated, makes working out seem easier, and pushes people harder in their efforts.

Finding somebody for your teen to work out with, whether it be a friend, family member, or personal trainer, might make your teen less intimidated and more excited about exercising. It can help working out seem like less of a burden and more of a social event, as well as add accountability to your teen’s exercise habits.

Even if they don’t want to go to the gym, it’s easy to create social exercise activities. Playing basketball a few times a week with your teen or organizing a hike with a group of your teen’s friends are both great ways to combine physical exercise with social interaction. 

Encouraging Your Teen

Always support your teen! This might be the most important tip we have, and goes beyond working out. If your teen is intimidated by or insecure about exercising, they’ll need a cushion of support for their efforts. Be consistently encouraging and reassuring that the effort your teen puts in is worth it.

If they hit a benchmark, congratulate them. If they look healthier, are losing weight, or putting on muscle, let them know it shows. Even if they do the bare minimum, let them know you’re proud of them and encourage them to keep moving forward.

This recognition will impact your teen’s self esteem and inspire them to continue building a healthy relationship with exercise. 

Good luck! 

Nobody’s the same, so it’s likely your teen will react better to some of these approaches than they do to others. Regardless, we hope that you find these 6 tips helpful in convincing your teen to develop a healthy workout and exercise routine.

With the right motivation, we’re sure your teen will be on their way to a happy, healthy life! 


Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of, ghostwriter at, and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.