Fitness and health among young people has been a focus of attention for those who understand its value and lasting impact on the lives of teenagers. In an area dominated by quick food options, and technology that promotes staying on the couch rather than going to the gym, it is no wonder why many high school students in Fayette County, and throughout the country, may not always be putting their health first.
Although many students hold a gym membership, it has become much easier to buy french fries than to gear up for a workout. As this becomes a habit, students get comfortable with sacrificing their own health for their appetites. “Many people forget the benefits of fitness, especially as a way to get students out of their minds and away from the pressures and stresses of busy schedules,” the owner and main trainer at Proper Pilates Andrea Chesek said.
It is easy for students to become enveloped in what seems to be a never-ending list of things to accomplish in a day. As a result, the first things that tend to be sacrificed are sleep, exercise, and well-rounded meals. Teenagers are expected to balance their school work, jobs, sports, extracurriculars, and social lives, all while staying fit and healthy. This is a battle that most students fight on a regular basis. “A healthy way to balance these things is to prioritize exercise, sleep, and anything else that is a stress reliever over the rest,” World Gym Director of Training Michael Price said.
The fitness aspect of this balance is such a broad expectation that most students, especially those who are not dedicated to a specific sport, are left wondering what they should actually be doing to exercise. “The word ‘exercise’ can include so many things from school sports to going for a run,” Chesek said. “The main thing students need to remember is to stay balanced in how they are working out, because it is easy to wear the body out.”
The trouble with this is that many people shy away from any form of fitness because it can appear intimidating or stressful, when its main purpose is quite the opposite. Keeping your body healthy and strong does not have to include spending hours in the gym every day lifting weights or sprinting on the treadmill. “Don’t put pressure on yourself, but find some sort of workout that you enjoy, even for just 30 minutes,” Chesek said. “Walking or dancing are simple ways that anyone can start exercising, and then they may be inspired to jog or build up strength in other ways.”
Food goes hand-in-hand with building strength and remaining fit. With lack of time in a busy schedule, young people are quick to swing through the closest drive-through and grab a combo meal rather than picking up a more wholesome snack. Especially in the Fayette County area, restaurants are a place for social gatherings of any form, which can quickly lead to unhealthy eating habits among teens.
Most young people don’t carry around lots of money as they still rely on their parents or some form of allowance. This makes cheap fast food options even more appealing. “Healthier foods tend to be more expensive, so shopping with friends and splitting the price is fun and easy,” Chesek said. Beginning to budget and plan for better food options now is a great way to form healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
“If you can limit the number of meals out, you can control more of what goes into your body and how it’s prepared,” Price said. It is important to remember that enjoying a treat occasionally is more than acceptable, but prioritizing buying a healthy alternative whenever possible is an easy tip for meeting one’s fitness goals.
The idea of becoming “fit,” especially as an already busy student, may seem a bit daunting. Both trainers advocate that students not put pressure on themselves to try to become healthier overnight, but to instead do what their bodies can and build up over time. Looking at a calendar and planning a few workouts ahead of time can eliminate the stress of trying to do so last minute. Also, keeping healthy snacks on hand at all times makes it easier to resist buying food when students get hungry and are away from home.
Students who seek to work in an exercise and swap fast food for a healthy snack every once in awhile will quickly notice the benefits, both mentally and physically. “Chances are that your habits now will continue and become your lifestyle when you’re older,” Price said. “Making the adjustments now sets you up for success in the future.”