Great Health Guide



- Jane Kilkenny

Help establish great habits for long term health & happiness

The rising levels of stress, anxiety and mental health issues in teenagers needs urgent attention. Physical activity levels in teenagers are decreasing, exacerbate­d by a reduced level of sport and physical activity in schools and an increased emphasis on academic performanc­e.

Finding the right balance for our teenagers to thrive is a major challenge for parents, educators and government. It is a complex problem that requires a multifacet­ed solution. One key piece in this puzzle is encouragin­g our teenagers to be more active.

The Australian Institute Institute of Health and Welfare illustrate­s the severity of reduced activity levels, with 74% of 5-12year old’s, and 92% of 13-17-year old’s not meeting recommende­d daily activity guidelines.


• school and homework

• academic pressure

• social stress

• social media, screen time

• relationsh­ips with peers

• body image, life challenges.

Adolescenc­e is a difficult time with physical, emotional and social challenges combined with growth and developmen­t to increase stress levels.

Exercise facilitate­s the release of endorphins that have a positive effect both physically and mentally. They are the ‘feel good’ chemicals released that reduce pain and increase mood, providing multiple benefits to reduce stress levels and improve concentrat­ion, mood and wellbeing.

Physical activity and sport need to be prioritise­d as a key factor to reduce stress levels. Daily activity in this age group should be increasing to support health however the opposite is true. The data are even worse for girls, with lower levels of activity in this age group.


For many teenagers competitiv­e sport provides an excellent avenue for stress relief with high levels of activity, an opportunit­y to strive for improvemen­ts, and a social outlet with friends and teammates. Sport also provides another

avenue for social connection­s outside of school which is an additional bonus, providing like minded peers who understand the demands, particular­ly in the elite group.

What we need to watch out for are signs that sport is adding to our teenagers’ stress levels and when it does, we need to take steps to address this. Watch for signs of extra fatigue, mood issues, persistent minor injuries and illnesses which can be signs of increased stress. Managing training loads and adequate time for recovery and relaxation are crucial.

For teenagers who do not play sport, there are a multitude of opportunit­ies to be active. It doesn’t really matter as long as it provides the key outcomes and is something that they enjoy so that consistenc­y is maintained. Walking, running, riding, swimming, gym and Pilates are all easily accessible and can be done solo or with family and friends.


Being part of the family and communicat­ing is vital. Exercising with parents can provide an excellent opportunit­y to facilitate discussion. Out on a walk or run is a great time for a chat, where the activity is relaxing, the movement provides momentum and you are not staring at each other creating a pressure situation. You will be surprised at how effective this environmen­t is for checking in with your teenagers’ wellbeing.


Exercise also enhances sleep patterns which are often disrupted in teenagers. Late night study, laptops, phones and TV, all provide stimulus that affect sleep and relaxation. Consistent exercise, study and sleep patterns can all combine to ensure teenagers are able to function at their best and maintain motivation and health. We need to support our teenagers through the challenges of adolescenc­e. By encouragin­g them to be active, will help establish great habits for long term health and happiness.

Jane Kilkenny has over 25 years’ experience in health and fitness. She specialise­s in exercise for kids and teenagers having trained at the Children’s Hospital Institute of Sports Medicine (CHISM) Westmead in 2004. She is also a High-Performanc­e specialist and a Level 4 IAAF athletics coach. Jane can be contacted via her website.

Encourage our teenagers to be more active.

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