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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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Success Tip No. 3: Make Exercise Fun and Easy continued...

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.

Giving back to the community can also keep you motivated. "You're doing it not only for yourself but for others," says Keller, "which can be a real boost to your self-esteem. You get to be physically active, and you feel like you can contribute."

Be radical: Trade some screen time for exercise. You'll probably find that you have more time in your schedule if you cut back on TV, computer, cell phone, and video game time. Cutting back 15 minutes a day on each of these sedentary activities will give you an hour of exercise time. Fill it with activities that get you moving outdoors, like jumping rope or rollerblading.

The Bottom Line for an Active Teen

"Sustainability is the name of the game," Bishop says. Making small changes that you can live with for a lifetime will help you lose weight more effectively than a big flurry of nutritious eating and exercise that burns you out in a few weeks. "That amounts to a crash diet," Bishop says, "and crash diets don't work."

Stick with a fun, doable exercise plan, and you will see a difference in your body and likely lose weight. "Once you start to see the physical changes with the regular physical activity, the other things fall into place" Keller says. "You'll notice that your clothes fit differently or a physical task that you had difficulty with before -- like going up a flight of stairs -- might become easier to do."

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Reviewed on January 22, 2012