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Teenagers and Tantrums

So it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of encouraging people to get out there and exercise, and with the school holidays approaching, I thought I would write my blog on kids and exercise.

With technology making our lives increasingly sedentary, a chronic pain epidemic worldwide, and a growing obesity problem (no pun intended) it’s more important than ever that we get our kids into the habit of exercising.

Exercise brings so many more benefits than just the physical. There is evidence to suggest that regular activity, particularly cardiovascular exercise such and running and biking improve brain function, concentration and focus. Spark is an excellent book that talks about the link between exercise and the brain. So improving grades next school term might not be just about hitting the books, but also the cycle trails, sports field or dance floor.

Now you might think that I am preaching to you all as yet another smug health professional with lots of facts and statistics to make you feel bad because you don’t run a marathon before work, eat grilled chicken and vegetables for lunch then spend the evening meditating on the yoga mat, while the kids attend tennis academy or athletics club!

But my passion for encouraging people to be active, particularly the next generation, isn’t just about my responsibilities as a physiotherapist. It’s much more personal than that.

I was encouraged to lead an active lifestyle from an early age. Swimming was my thing, and I competed just below national level for several years, but I lack the drive and natural sporting ability that is required to excel and become a champion. Consequently, I have tried my hand at various different activities over the years (some with more success than others), from climbing to kayaking to netball, mountain biking, trail running and dragon boating.

Leading an active lifestyle has provided me with some fantastic experiences, and allowed me to see some pretty amazing places over the years. Running the London Marathon with thousands of cheering supporters lining the route, reaching Everest Base Camp, skiing with sea views in Norway are up there amongst the best.

Sport has given me self-esteem, confidence and best of all, some amazing friends.

At this point, you might be thinking, ‘easy for you to say, try getting a grumpy and self conscious teenager out of the house and onto the sports field, or enjoying the great outdoors!’

But I know it’s not easy. I’m well aware that I’m viewing all this through the rose-tinted glasses of age and experience. On that note, I want this blog to provide some practical advice, rather than simply bang on about health benefits.

It’s easy to extol the virtues of an active lifestyle with the benefit of hindsight and a little bit of maturity.

If my parents were to write this blog, they would tell quite a different story.

Despite doing OK in the pool, I was very much a fish out of water when it came to land-based activity.I wanted to instantly be good at stuff. Unfortunately, I lacked any natural talent. Not a good combination! I didn’t pick up new skills easily and had next to no hand-eye coordination. My mum would tell you of a temper tantrum (me not her) because I struggled to get the shuttlecock over the net when learning to play badminton (this was a scene repeated on several occasions, including at roller city when I couldn’t skate as well as my cousin). We spent a lot of time in the Lake District on family holidays, of which I do have many great memories, but my dad would probably tell you about a fair bit of complaining from my brother and I that being made to walk up a mountain in the rain was bordering on child cruelty (incidentally, my brother went on to join the Royal Marines, which often involved  being cold and wet on a mountain side!).


For some reason though, my parents stuck with it, and I think they will agree, it was worth putting up with a few temper tantrums. Being involved with sports from a young age taught me the self discipline that got me through A levels and university, and it has certainly opened doors for me over the course of my career.

So now you know, although it’s not always easy to get the little monsters out and about, they will thank you in the end. No reality TV show, no amount of Facebook ‘likes’ or computer game score will give them the sense of achievement and self worth that an active lifestyle can bring.

So how do you get started? How do you get the kids to switch the ipads off this summer, put the phones down and get active?

Well, ultimately it should be about having fun. Exeter is such a fantastic city with so much to offer with regards to an active lifestyle. We have amazing beaches and  Dartmoor on our doorstep, which can be enjoyed at minimal cost.

If you have small children, organise a nature walk, or a bike ride along one of the fantastic local cycle ways. If the weather is good, check out one of the many swim spots around the South West. Haldon Forest is popular with families. If you’re keen to improve your bike skills so you can be more confident taking the kids out, Tony at Evolve Mountain Biking runs some great skills courses.

Ruby’s Big Bike Challenge is the initiative of 9-year-old Ruby and is all about having some fun on the bike, choosing your own challenge, and raising some money for charity in the process. Revolution Sports Physio is getting involved with this over the summer, so keep an eye on the website and Facebook page for details, and come and join us

Teenagers, of course, can be tricky. Wanting to hang out with their mates rather than family. Get them involved with a class or club with kids their own age. Haven Banks have some excellent activities for teenagers, as does the Quay Climbing Centre 

Collaborate with the parents of your kid’s friends and sign them up for an activity as a group. Evolve Mountain Biking also runs courses for the youngsters (age 9+), and Oaklands Riding School has a fantastic setup minutes from the city centre. I think like most teenagers, my moods and complaining were always directed at my parents. Put me in a class with a professional instructor and I was as good as gold (and this way you get some much-needed peace for an hour or two).

So you don’t have to sign your kids up for a summer of hard labour, it can be enjoyable. Yes, teenagers may think you mean and unreasonable, but you know that you are setting the foundations for a happier, healthier and more successful life. Just hang in there with the tantrums and complaints.

Check out our links page for more ideas for summer holiday activities.

Of course, this blog was all about the kids, but it’s important to lead by example, and it’s never too late to start. If you want to get fit but not really sure where to start, read my previous blog about exercise. If you’re worried about injury, give me a call. I understand getting motivated can be tough. (Oh, and I don’t have tantrums anymore!!).

Incidentally, while I was working on this blog, this link about children and exercise came up on my twitter feed!!