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A No-Gym-Class Plan for Exercise

Expert tips to help overweight teens leave that PE baggage behind and get active.
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WebMD Feature

Overweight teen in swim capYou may be turned off by the idea of exercise, especially if it reminds you of bad experiences you had in PE class. Maybe you were embarrassed about getting picked last for a team, wearing ugly gym clothes, or being teased in the locker room.

Vow to become a more healthy and active teen by kicking these feelings to the sidelines. Then start strategizing your own step-by-step fitness and exercise plan.

Your goal is to create a fitness plan where you are in charge. Your plan should be one that makes you feel good about yourself, where you can go at your own pace, and where you're inspired to do well.

Being an Overweight Teen Is Not Your Destiny

When you're an overweight teen, the first step to getting healthier is often just shifting the way you think. You may have become conditioned to feel hopeless and helpless about your weight, says Mike Bishop, PhD, a psychologist and the executive director of Wellspring weight loss programs.

"When teens are overweight, they may feel, 'Diets don't work for me,'" Bishop says. "'No matter what I do, no matter what I try, it doesn't work. I'm just going to be overweight. This is just my biology that I've been born with.'"

Biology is definitely a factor, but your biology doesn't define your destiny, says, Bishop, who lost 100 pounds himself. Getting healthier is just a process of increasing your physical activity and following a nutritious eating plan. Your day-to-day behaviors don't just affect how much energy you have, how you feel about yourself, and how you look -- they'll also have an effect on your weight.

Success Tip No. 1: Keep on Tracking

When it comes to teen weight loss and exercise, remember this simple fact: If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight.

So why does it sometimes seem as if we aren't losing weight when we think we should be? We tend to underestimate the calories we take in and overestimate the amount of exercise we get, says Laura Alderman, an exercise physiologist and wellness coach at Sanford Health in Fargo, N.D.

To avoid that mistake, Bishop advises that teens measure and track calories and exercise. He suggests recording in a daily journal the calories you eat and your exercise, like how many steps you take (by using a pedometer) or how many minutes you dance to music.

Success Tip No. 2: Step Up Your Steps

Walking is a great way to start being more active and increasing your exercise. You walk every day anyhow. It doesn't require special outfits. And it's not competitive.

You can get a pedometer for $5 to $40. (The more expensive ones let you set your weight and length of stride so you get a more accurate reading of the calories you burn.)