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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.

Success Tip No. 2: Step Up Your Steps continued...

To get started with a pedometer, wear it around for a few days to see how many steps you take. Then set a goal for yourself, such as taking 500 more steps a day one week. Then add another 500 the next week, and so on. You may be able to set up a family challenge to make it more interesting. Or reward yourself when you meet certain goals.

Bishop says that focusing on day-to-day behaviors like this works better than counting the numbers on the scale. "Your weight can go up and down, depending on water retention and building muscle," he says. But if you are burning more calories than you consume every day, ultimately your weight is going to go down.

Success Tip No. 3: Make Exercise Fun and Easy

Follow these guidelines for making physical activity part of your life.

Add exercise to your normal day. You're probably juggling a schedule crammed with schoolwork and social activities. That's why it's important to set reachable goals that you can fit into your regular day.

You might find it easiest to build a few more steps into things you already do. Maybe while you’re waiting for school to start, you can walk around instead of standing. Or pace to add steps while you study after school.

Find ways to make exercise fun. This is very important, says Betsy Keller, a professor of exercise and sport sciences at Ithaca College in New York. Because if you're not having fun when you exercise, you're probably not going to do it on a regular basis.

Enjoying exercise may be a new concept for you. If it is, try out different activities so that you can find something you truly enjoy. Maybe it's something you don't even think of as exercise, such as belly dancing or playing Frisbee.

Or maybe you need to practice being OK with not taking activity so seriously. Laugh at yourself if you don't catch a ball. Or hop around and be silly in center field. Your light-heartedness will keep it fun for you and help other people have fun, too.

Choose an exercise you feel comfortable with. Look for activities that you like to help you become an active teen and stay active as an adult. "You don't have to be on a team or do an organized sport to increase your activity level," Keller says. And if you don't feel comfortable exercising around other people, choose activities that you can do by yourself. Take the dog for a walk, or ride a bike around your neighborhood.

Look for nonconventional exercises, like volunteering. Maybe you don't think of yourself an active teen, but you do consider yourself a kind and caring teen. Try community service projects, such as helping to clean up park trails or building a playground for kids, as humanistic ways to sneak in your physical activity.