Teenagers need to work at staying fit and healthy

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The teenage years can be a challenging time for keeping healthy.

Bodies are developing, young people have more say over what they eat and it’s a time of experiencing new things such as alcohol and sexual relationships.

This week I have some advice for teenagers on keeping healthy.

· Alcohol

Figures from Drink Aware show that by the time they are 15, more than eight out of 10 people in the UK have tried alcohol. Among 35 European countries, the UK has the third-highest proportion of 15 year olds who report having been drunk 10 times or more in the past year.

It is important to remember that not all teens are drinking underage or to excessive amounts. However, those that do can do damage to their health both in the short and long term. Drinking while young, when the body is still developing, can lead to cancer, liver damage and heart disorders in later life.

The recommended limits of alcohol consumption for adults over 18 years of age say that men shouldn’t drink more than three to four units a day and women shouldn’t exceed more than two to three units. One alcoholic unit is half a pint of beer or one 25ml measurement of a spirit. This means that teenagers definitely shouldn’t exceed these guidelines.

· Sexual health

It’s important that teenagers only have sex when they are completely ready emotionally. The legal age of consent is 16, however that doesn’t mean that teenagers will be automatically be ready to have sex at this age and might wait until they are older.

When a teenager decides they are ready to have sex, it is important to do so safely using contraception. Condoms will protect against sexually transmitted diseases, as well as preventing unwanted pregnancy, whereas the combined pill or implant will only protect against pregnancy. A GP or a dedicated sexual health clinic is the best place to go for advice on contraceptive options.

· Keeping fit

It can be tempting for teenagers, whether at school, college or university, to spend their time watching TV, playing computer games or sitting chatting with friends. But this leads to the risk of becoming unhealthy and overweight.

For teenagers that think they are becoming overweight, it’s important to try to cut out fatty foods and fizzy drinks, as well as get more exercise.

It is recommended that those aged over 18 get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week, such as walking quickly, cycling or tennis. On top of this, muscle strengthening exercises should be performed on two or more days, such as lifting weights or doing push ups. However, these figures change to 60 minutes of exercise per day and three days of muscle strengthening per week for those aged under 18.

There are many ways to incorporate exercise into teenagers’ lives. From PE lessons at school to joining sports clubs, there are many activities that contribute to the target. Even everyday activities such as walking and cycling can help with fitness.

· Healthy eating

In addition to exercise, eating healthily is also an important part of getting fit. A balanced diet, including lots of fruit and vegetables, will provide the nutrition teenagers need as their bodies develop.

The World Health Organisation states that eating five 80g portions of fruit or vegetables a day lowers the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and obesity in later life.

By keeping their bodies in good shape, teenagers will stand themselves in good stead to stay healthy in later life.