Preteens Exercise: From the Screen to the Sun


Key Items

  • Exercise for preteens is especially important because they're experiencing physical, emotional, and mental changes from going through puberty.

  • When considering exercise for preteens, focus on strength training, flexibility, and cardio.

  • Make exercise fun, include the whole family, and sign up for a sport to increase activity in your household.

As a parent, you want the best for your child. You worry about their future and want more for them than you had yourself. Recognizing the importance of caring for yourself and promoting exercise for preteens makes you a loving parent.

Kids are sitting now more than ever. The constant reliance of society on technology glues kids to their screens. They must dive into the digital world daily for personal and academic gain. Being stuck to a screen makes exercise for preteens that much more important.

Preteen Development

Understanding the stages of puberty helps you understand your teen. Preteens experience lots of physical, emotional, and mental changes during this time in their life. Exercise makes this transition easier for them.


Preteens experience numerous changes that make them self-conscious. Increased breast size and broader hips make girls feel sexualized. Boys experience genital changes, which might make them feel isolated from their peers.

Preteens also notice increased acne, body hair, body odor, and sweating. Some might notice feelings about their sex drive. It's easy for them to want to resist who they're becoming.

Teenage girl gets ready to workout


Puberty causes an unfamiliar hormone boost. This hormone increase is new territory for the brain, so emotional challenges arise.

Preteens often feel:

  • Overly sensitive

  • Quick to anger

  • Mood swings

  • More focused on personal relationships

  • Confusion

Preteens are self-critical and often listen to the opinions of others. During this time, they struggle with how others view and interact with them. Alterations in brain chemicals enhance physical and emotional changes.


During puberty, the brain starts secreting a hormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). GnRH promotes testosterone production in boys and estrogen and progesterone production in girls. Increasing these hormones causes preteens' physical and mental changes during puberty.

Exercise for Preteens

Dr. Ben-Joseph with Nemours KidsHealth states that "kids who exercise regularly are better able to handle physical and emotional challenges — from running to catch a bus to studying for a test."

Preteens need exercise to offset the obstacles they reach. Exercise improves preteens' physical, emotional, and mental health, making them happier and healthier. Exercise for teens focuses on strength, flexibility, and cardio.

Preteen girl does ballet

Strength Training

Strength training makes your muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments stronger. Excess testosterone in boys might lead to weight gain around the abdomen. Strength training allows the body to regulate testosterone better, improving weight.

A strong body is hard to break down. Preteens with more strength have fewer injuries and recover faster from the acquired ones. They're also harder to get sick and spend less time being ill than children who don't practice strength training.

Strength training is the act of using resistance to promote muscle strength. Dumbbells provide resistance when you complete a curl, so your biceps have to work harder to complete the motion. Loading the muscle with weight improves strength.

Improve strength by doing training exercises such as:

  • Squats

  • Pushups

  • Pullups

  • Lunges

  • Bench Press


Weak muscles, ligaments, and tendons lead to more injuries. Being flexible improves the growing pains and physical changes that preteens face. It also improves pain, sleep, and stress.

Flexibility reduces the risk of injury and muscle stiffness. Stretching improves body movements, joint pain, and makes daily activities easier. Preteens have better sports and academic performance.

Stretch the glutes for improved back pain and posture. Stretch the arms and shoulders to decrease stress and tension. Stretching the legs increases mobility, loosens tight muscles, and positively affects walking patterns.


A healthy cardiorespiratory system is key to a healthy life. The cardiorespiratory system involves the lungs, heart, and blood vessels. It's responsible for moving blood and oxygen throughout the body. You live longer with better heart and lung health.

A healthier heart and set of lungs decrease the risk of heart disease, COPD, asthma, stroke, heart attack, blood clots, and poor circulation. Focusing on improving your preteen's oxygen and circulation system by running, swimming, biking, walking, and jumping rope.

Boosting Activity

Getting your kid to move might be challenging, especially if they're regularly sedentary. Not all kids enjoy exercise, so it's a struggle for some parents. Try to promote activity among your preteens in a few different ways.

Teenage girl does yoga on a mat

Include the Whole Family

Get involved with them. Bringing the family together for physical activities lets you bond and build muscle. Sign up for a group fitness class, go for a daily walk around your neighborhood, play a soccer game, or go on a family bike ride.

Make It Fun

Make exercise fun so they're more motivated to participate. Gather friends, family, and neighbors for a softball game. Go for a hike or even take a few laps around the skating rink.

Use Incentives

Offer incentives for completing an exercise. After a thirty-minute walk, take the whole family out for frozen yogurt. Reward your kids with extra screen time or time before bed if they accomplish their workout.

Start a Competition

The family member who does the most jumping jacks in one week gets to choose a restaurant for dinner that weekend. Run races or relays for an added layer of competition.

Sign Up for a Sport

Track, football, and basketball are all fun ways to get your kids moving (and you don't have to yell at them. . . the coach does). Being regularly active strengthens muscle, decreases body fat, and increases calories burned at rest.

However, sports aren't for everyone. Some kids are shy or uninterested. Forcing your kid into a sport adds pressure and stress to their already-full plates.

Set Limits on Screen Time

Too much screen time causes headaches, eye strain, fatigue, irritability, and sometimes depression. Staying hunched over a phone for hours daily is almost as unhealthy as smoking a cigarette.

Screen time is especially harmful when it replaces good habits, like sleep and being productive. Limit your preteen's screen time to a few hours a day. Send them outside for some sun and physical activity.

Two preteens do yoga on a mat

Eat Better

Eating healthier increases energy and mood. Replacing a candy bar with a bowl of strawberries makes you feel and look better. A healthier diet makes gaining the energy and nutrients needed for a good workout easier.

Aim for two cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables every day. Preteens need 5.5 ounces of protein, 1,300 milligrams of calcium, and six ounces of whole grains.

Reduce Sugar

Sugar tastes great, but it's definitely not great for you. Excess sugar leads to fat storage and weight gain. It also increases the risk of diabetes.

Sugar briefly makes you hyper. However, this sudden increase in energy drops after the blood sugar returns to normal levels, and you feel sluggish.

Limiting sugar reduces inflammation, headaches, acne, anxiety, and fatigue. Replace sugar with natural sugars like honey, fruit, and milk.

Sleep Well

Lack of energy and increased stress are two big reasons why preteens don't exercise. They may feel like they don't have time or energy to get their workout done. Getting enough sleep improves energy and stress levels, motivating your kid to snuggle up a little earlier at night.

Drink Enough Water

The body is 60 percent water. Water is an essential building block for the human system. Stay hydrated so your body operates at peak performance.

Drinking enough water improves energy, which preteens use for exercise. Aim to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of water. If your preteen weighs 100 pounds, shoot for 50 ounces of water daily.

Invite Friends

Preteens often see their parents as lame and embarrassing. Exercise might be something they're more likely to do if they have friends with them. Offer to carpool your kid and a few friends to a community park or pool.

Utilize the Community

Sign up for a volunteer committee responsible for picking up litter. Visit parks with outdoor gym equipment and playing fields. Join Facebook local fitness groups for support and opportunities to get moving.

Teenage girls play sports

Get a Dog

Getting a dog might sound like a burden, but it's an excellent way to get your kids moving. Going for walks, taking them to parks, and simply rolling around the living room floor increases activity levels for the whole family.

Start a Hobby

Encourage your kid to find a new hobby. Riding bikes, skateboards, or rollerblades are fun ways to get some movement. Motivate them to learn a new skill, such as gymnastics or dance.

Harness Technology for Good

It sounds cliche: use screens to promote movement. There's a method to this type of madness, though.

In a perfect world, your kid loves to exercise. They never watch screens and only read books. They dedicate their time and efforts to being healthy. It's not a perfect world, and technology does help sometimes.

Consider playing a show on Netflix while they're on the treadmill. Listen to a podcast while doing yoga. Play games on apps that promote movement, such as geocaching, Sweat Coin, and Pokemon Go.

Look into live fitness classes on smart treadmills and bikes. Peloton bikes come with large screens where you're able to watch videos, landscapes, television, and live or recorded workout classes.

Exercise at Home

Encouraging your preteen to exercise might be more accessible at home. Turn your basement, garage, or extra bedroom into a home gym. Showing your kids you care about their health is the first step in motivating them.


You might be fortunate enough to order a home gym system for a gym-worthy setup. If you're unable to shell out $2,000 for the newest Body Challenger Ripped Weight Dumbbell 3.0, don't worry. Set up your home gym for less than a few hundred dollars.

Consider buying resistance bands, dumbbells, jump ropes, mats, and weighted balls. They don't take up much space and are not super expensive. Plus, you still get a whole-body workout.


A speaker or sound system with motivating music gets you hyped and in the mood to burn some calories. Music boosts serotonin levels, the feel-good hormone for pain relief and happiness. Higher serotonin levels make working out more enjoyable.

Workout Clothes

Working out in pajamas makes it harder for your brain to get into exercise mode. Buy sweatpants and tank tops your son likes to wear. Grab some cute shorts and comfortable sports bras for your daughter.

If they like what they wear, they're more likely to like what they're doing. It's also helpful to use new workout clothes as incentives for being active.

Teenage girl plays volleyball

Get a Routine

One significant way to promote exercise among your preteens is to set a routine. Make it a part of your day so there's no excuse for not having time. Having a routine also increases the chance of making exercise a habit.

Integrating exercise into your schedule provides stability for your workout routine. You're more likely to stay persistent and motivated when it becomes a habit.

Mix up the exercises throughout the week. Plan for three days of exercise: one for strength training, one for flexibility, and one for cardio. On week one, do cardio on Monday. On week two, do cardio on Wednesday. Breaking it up prevents the exercise from feeling monotonous.

Now You're Ready

It's not always easy to get your preteen to exercise. With teens today spending most of their time sitting, getting them to exercise is more important than ever.

Motivating your preteen to exercise leads to a healthier adult. They grasp knowledge and health benefits from exercising as a teen that follows them into adulthood.

Limiting screen time is beneficial for physical, mental, and emotional health. Using technology appropriately adds to life; it doesn't take away.

Subscribe to FitAndFab for the best advice on achieving better health for yourself and your preteens!

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