Why You Shouldn't Guilt Teens Into Exercising

A study found that when teens felt obligated to exercise, they were less likely to do so.


If you're looking for a strategy to boost your teen's exercise routine, there's one technique that won't work: guilt. According to new research from the University of Georgia, when adults make middle schoolers feel guilty about not exercising, those middle schoolers exercise even less. 

The study found that when students felt like they were pressured to be more active or like they weren't in control of their own exercise choices, they were less likely to want to get fit.

Meanwhile, the kids who felt like they controlled their exercise routines were more likely to be active. Basically, the overarching theme is that the teens didn't want to feel obligated to work out. (Who would?!)

This time in middle schoolers' lives—between 5th and 6th grade—is actually critical, as far as exercise goes. According to the University of Georgia's press release, it's the period when kids decrease their activity level by 50 percent.

It's important to spark an interest in physical activity early on. The benefits are endless: a better night's sleep, less stress, or even a decreased risk of cancer.

Reflecting on the research, the study's lead author Rod Dishman says,

"The best thing is to do it because it's fun. It's the kids who say they are intrinsically motivated who are more active than the kids who aren't."

We couldn't agree more! Who wants to exercise when they're made to feel bad about it? A more promising technique is to make fitness more fun.

For ideas on how to do just that, check out this story, "Yes! THIS Is A Workout" from our September issue, in which three teens share their exercise inspiration! Plus, try our "Get Fit in 5!" workout that can be done anywhere.