Sensible snacking, safety at the gym, getting a six pack, fighting fat: Figure it Out: The Ultimate Guide to Teen Fitnesshas 51 tips on how your teen can reshape his or her life by eating and exercising right. Namita Jain, the author, is a wellness consultant with Bombay Hospital, Mumbai, and says the book was a result of her interactions with concerned parents who can’t seem to get their sedentary teens away from TV and computer screens, and troubled teenagers who want superstar-like bodies in a jiffy without paying heed to the consequences. She tells us why parents should be wary if they notice sudden weight loss in their teen and why supplements of any kind are a big no. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Why a book on teenage fitness? Can’t teenagers just follow the fitness and nutrition plans adults do?
Teenage (13-19) is the period when the body grows. It is a phase when there are changes in the body. The fitness and nutrition requirements of this phase are different from those of adults and hence must be approached uniquely. Teenagers should ideally not be doing what adults do to build their body or keep in shape.
What can parents do to interest their teenagers in staying fit?
Find out what activity your teen likes and encourage him or her to take that up, instead of forcing them to do things like karate or other sporting activities, such as soccer, because you think those are good for staying healthy.
Remember, all teenagers want to look good. Play on this sentiment and make sure you help yours to work towards this goal.
Planning meals and making them look good and taste great is not something that should go out of the window as soon as your child is a teenager. If you took trouble to prepare and pack healthy nutritious meals for your children when he or she was young, continue to do so now. Keep experimenting, opt for that wholewheat pizza base, make a frankie without frying the chapati base, use cottage cheese instead of cheese.
Don’t leave it to your teen to decide on when, what and how much they should eat. They will gravitate towards junk food if left to their own devices. Also, your teenager will want to eat out because that is what his peers do. So educate him or her about the right choices to order from a menu. Though they may not always listen to you, at least they should know that grilled chicken is better than a batter-fried one.
Any precautions parents need to take if their teen is a regular at a gym?
First ask your teenager or check at the gym if the trainers are certified instructors. Do they have the qualifications to give sound recommendations? If not, then change the gym.
Make a choice: Encourage your child to take up a fitness activity she likes. Jacek Chabraszewski/Thinkstock
Look out if your child is losing weight very fast. If he or she is, then it is a sure sign that he or she is overexercising. Also, if they come home and complain of pains and aches in the lower back, knees or any other body part frequently, then the gym instructor is pushing your teen too hard. Tell him to back off.
Another thing to be careful about is if your teenager wants to start taking supplements of any kind to build their body or develop muscle mass.
You are saying teenagers should not take supplements?
I don’t believe teens should be put on any kind of supplements for bodybuilding. Any supplements—powders or pills—should be prescribed by a doctor, not a gym instructor or bought off the shelf because “a friend is also taking them”. It is better your child develops muscle mass through a good diet and increases protein intake rather than depending on supplements.
Why should sudden weight loss be a danger signal in a teenager’s case?
If your teen is losing too much weight too soon (say, she drops 10kg in a month) then you should worry. Though mostly prevalent in girls, this can be a sign of the onset of anorexia or bulimia. Girls these days want to be skinny all the time and they don’t realize what harm they can do to their body. So if your child is in the habit of avoiding mealtimes, has excessive hair fall, a sallow-looking skin, or has broken bones as a result of a minor fall, monitor her eating habits carefully. You could also take your teen for a blood test (after consulting with a doctor) and ask to check for calcium levels.
Good health guide
An excerpt from Namita Jain’s new book ‘Figure it Out’
Sometimes the obsession to muscle-up can make you go to extremes at the gym. Wait up. First figure out just what it takes to transform your appearance.
• Formulate an appropriate exercise plan
Strength gains can be acquired through various types of strength training methods and equipment. While performing a series or circuit of strength exercises, it is advisable to proceed from the larger to the smaller muscle groups
• Follow a sensible eating plan
If your goal is to muscle-up, in addition to strength training make sure you consume 1-1.5g of protein per kg of your body weight. Proteins are essential for building and repairing muscle tissue
• Give your muscles adequate rest
The one important aspect of strength training is rest. The body needs adequate rest to avoid the possibility of a physical burnout.
Regular exercisers experience less pain during monthly periods than those who do no exercise. Here are some back pain stress relievers but remember to walk or march for 5 minutes to warm up your body before you start these exercises.
Reprieve: The cobbler pose can relieve stress.
• Camel stretch
Come up on all fours—on hands and knees. Carefully arch your back and hold for 3-5 seconds. Then gently round your back (like the hump of a camel) and hold for 3-5 seconds. Repeat five times
• Child pose
Sit on the heels. Slowly bend forward, resting the forehead on the floor. Place the arms beside the body. Relax all muscles. Hold for 10 seconds
• Cobbler pose
In a seated position, bend your knees and slowly bring your feet together in a ‘namaste’ position; feel the stretch in your inner thighs. Hold for 10 seconds.