Exercising is a great habit that everyone can benefit from. Aside from the physical benefits, there are also various mental health benefits that come with consistent exercise.
However, it can be intimidating and confusing to cultivate a healthy workout plan, especially as a youth. Your body is continuously changing as you grow through puberty. Youth also have school and extracurricular activities, making it hard to find time to squeeze in a workout.
Keep reading to learn how to design a healthy workout plan, the exercise resources available for youth, and the physical and mental health benefits of physical activity.
Designing a workout plan
First, it is essential to consult a doctor or physical trainer before beginning an intense workout plan. While it is usually perfectly safe to engage in sports without consulting a professional, strength training requires proper supervision and instruction. A physical trainer can teach you proper techniques and how to use equipment safely. Otherwise, you could run the risk of injuring yourself. A professional will also be able to guide you on how often you should be engaging in rigorous physical activities, especially if you already play a sport.
Physical activity guidelines for youth generally recommend that they get around one hour or more of moderate to strong physical activity on a daily basis. Additionally, the guidelines state that most physical activity should be aerobic based, which can include running, swimming, and dancing. For strength training, experts recommend including these types of workouts in your routine around three times a week.
When beginning strength training, it is important to take your time getting accustomed to it as strength training is very different from aerobic-based exercises. Aerobic exercises are mainly low-intensity and target weight loss while strength training is high-intensity and focussed on increasing muscle mass.
Another key component of a healthy workout is always stretching before any physical activity, whether aerobic or strength training. Stretching helps you increase your heart rate, warm up your muscles, and improve your flexibility.
Rest days are also a very important element of a healthy workout plan. Taking regular breaks allows your body to recover and repair. Skipping rest days can lead to overtraining your body or leave you feeling burnt out.
You can try a few different exercises and routines to see what works best for you. You may find that you like swimming and strength training three times a week while incorporating a rest day in between. It is your workout routine, so it is important that you are happy and comfortable with it.
Resources for youth
One challenge youth may encounter when trying to develop a workout plan is where they can engage in physical activities and strength training. After all, gym memberships can be quite expensive.
The City of Toronto offers various recreation services, including drop-in programs, free weight rooms, and discounted rates on fitness memberships. There are free centres scattered all around the city to enable easy access for Toronto communities. These free centres offer access to cardio rooms, weight rooms, and group fitness classes. The city also offers free drop-in programs, including swimming and skating classes.
The Toronto District School Board provides students with the opportunity to participate in various sports through the Toronto District Elementary School Athletic Association (TDESAA). Depending on the seasons, students can engage in cross-country, volleyball, basketball, and hockey.
The YMCA offers a program titled Teen Night. This program allows youth to enjoy all the resources offered at the YMCA’s health and fitness centres across the GTA. Some of these resources include gymnasiums, conditioning rooms, pools, and dance studios.
Physical benefits of exercise
There are various physical benefits of a consistent workout routine. Regular exercise has been found to help adolescents improve cardiorespiratory fitness, build strong bones and muscles, control weight, and reduce the risk of developing health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
There have also been connections established between students who are physically active and improved academic performance. Physically active students tend to have better grades, school attendance, cognitive performance, and classroom behaviours.
On the other hand, the negative consequences of physical inactivity can be quite serious. Physical inactivity can lead to energy imbalance, which can increase the risk of adolescents becoming overweight or obese. Another concern of physical inactivity is that it increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, including hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and glucose intolerance.
Mental health benefits of exercise
Similarly to the physical benefits of exercise, working out is associated with a positive influence on mental health.
Exercise has been found to reduce stress and increase relaxation. Youth can release physical and mental stresses related to school or personal issues through exercise. Additionally, youth may find that a consistent workout routine increases relaxation, benefiting individuals who
struggle with insomnia or sleep deprivation.
Physical activity can also alleviate anxiety and depression as it releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals in your body that release feelings of happiness. Studies have shown that even getting 30 minutes of exercise a few times a week can significantly improve depression, anxiety and overall mood levels.
Not exercising has been found to have the opposite effect on mental health. Lack of exercise can decrease self-esteem and encourage individuals to develop self-deprecating thought patterns. Also, a lack of a regular workout routine can lead our brains to release the stress hormone cortisol, making it harder to manage our emotions effectively.
Establishing a consistent workout routine is essential to living a happy and healthy life. Speak with your doctor and consult a physical trainer to design a workout plan that works for you. Everyone is different, and we have different physical needs, goals, and limitations. There is no need to go all out and put your body under physical stress. Consistency and happiness are the keys to a successful and healthy workout plan.
About the author
Callum Denault is a fourth year student of journalism at Toronto MU, and a disability self-advocate. In his free time Callum enjoys practicing martial arts including Jiu-Jitsu, playing basketball, and keeping up on the latest science news.