You’ve probably heard countless times how exercise is “good for you.” But did you know that it can actually help you feel good, too? Getting the right amount of exercise can rev up your energy levels and even help improve your mood.

Experts recommend that teens get 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. Here are some of the reasons: Exercise benefits every part of the body, including the mind. Exercising causes the body to produce endorphins, chemicals that can help a person to feel more peaceful and happy. Exercise can help some people sleep better. It can also help some people who have mild depression and low self-esteem. Plus, exercise can give people a real sense of accomplishment and pride at having achieved a certain goal — like beating an old time in the 100-meter dash. Exercising can help you look better. People who exercise burn more calories and look more toned than those who don’t.

In fact, exercise is one of the most important parts of keeping your body at a healthy weight. Exercise helps people lose weight and lower the risk of some diseases. Exercising to maintain a healthy weight decreases a person’s risk of developing certain diseases, including type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure. These diseases, which used to be found mostly in adults, are becoming more common in teens. Exercise can help a person age well. This may not seem important now, but your body will thank you later. Women are especially prone to a condition called osteoporosis (a weakening of the bones) as they get older. Studies have found that weight-bearing exercise — like jumping, running, or brisk walking — can help girls (and guys!) keep their bones strong.


The three components to a well-balanced exercise routine are: aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility training. Like other muscles, the heart enjoys a good workout. You can provide it with one in the form of aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise is any type of exercise that gets the heart pumping and quickens your breathing. When you give your heart this kind of workout regularly, it will get stronger and more efficient in delivering oxygen (in the form of oxygen-carrying blood cells) to all parts of your body. If you play team sports, you’re probably meeting the recommendation for 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous activity on practice days.

Some team sports that give you a great aerobic workout are swimming, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, hockey, and rowing. But if you don’t play team sports, don’t worry — there are plenty of ways to get aerobic exercise on your own or with friends. These include biking, running, swimming, dancing, in-line skating, tennis, cross-country skiing, hiking, and walking quickly. In fact, the types of exercise that you do on your own are easier to continue when you leave high school and go on to work or college, making it easier to stay fit later in life as well.

The heart isn’t the only muscle to benefit from regular exercise. Most of the other muscles in your body enjoy exercise, too. When you use your muscles and they become stronger, you are strength training. This allows you to be active for longer periods of time without getting worn out. Strong muscles are also a plus because they actually help protect you when you exercise by supporting your joints and helping to prevent injuries. Muscle also burns more energy when a person’s at rest than fat does, so building your muscles will help you burn more calories and maintain a healthy weight.

Strengthening the heart and other muscles isn’t the only important goal of exercise. Exercise also helps the body stay flexible, meaning that your muscles and joints stretch and bend easily. People who are flexible can worry less about strained muscles and sprains. Being flexible may also help improve a person’s sports performance. Some activities, like dance or martial arts, obviously require great flexibility, but increased flexibility can also help people perform better at other sports, such as soccer or lacrosse. Stretching after your workout will also help you improve your flexibility.

One of the biggest reasons people drop an exercise program is lack of interest: If what you’re doing isn’t fun, it’s hard to keep it up. The good news is that there are tons of different sports and activities that you can try out to see which one inspires you.

It’s a good idea to talk to someone who understands the exercise, like a coach or fitness expert at a gym. He or she can get you started on a program that’s right for you and your level of fitness.

The YMCA of Van Wert County is offering middle and high school athletes an opportunity to take their training to the next level. The All Sports Conditioning program is designed to improve every aspect of the athlete’s fitness. This program is for boys and girls incoming grades 7-12. There are three one-week sessions: July 7-10 and July 21-24. Girl’s sessions run 10-10:45 a.m. and boy’s sessions run 11-11:45 a.m. Fee is $25 per session.

Registrations can be made by visiting the YMCA online at vwymca.org, call (419) 238-0443 or at the YMCA front desk. To learn more about the Y’s fitness and training programs, please contact Julie Schaufelberger, YMCA fitness director, at (419) 238-0443 or julie@vwymca.org.

The YMCA of Van Wert County is partially funded by the United Way and the Van Wert County Foundation.