Exercise Ideas for Teens

Parent Q&A

Exercise and interaction ideas for 12 year old girl Feb 1, 2021 (4 responses below)
Physical activities for teens?? Nov 11, 2020 (3 responses below)
Non-competitive sport for teen Dec 12, 2019 (5 responses below)
Tween exercise Sep 1, 2018 (7 responses below)
Seeking personal trainer for teen Jun 20, 2016 (4 responses below)
  • What kinds of opportunities are folks finding for 12 year old girls to stay active during this pandemic?  There's way too much sitting.  My grand-daughter says she doesn't like to walk--I wonder if there are any truly engaging on-line dance for girls this age that would pull her in?  Possibly 'safe' face-to-face classes, but she is in school so there's a lot of exposure risk already.  In addition, whatever she does, it seems like we also have to seek a way for there to be communication.  She does very little reaching out to friends, even by phone, and is increasingly more isolated as time goes by, which is a stress on the family.

    Does she play video games? Just Dance and Ring Fit have been our go-to way to get our bums off the chair. When the weather gets warmer, swimming is nice of course. There are outdoor swimming pools that are open across the tunnel (concord, Walnut Creek, lamorinda, etc.). Also, we have used Swimply app to get some private swimming in.  How about ping pong or tennis? do you have a bit of space to put a smaller ping pong table indoor or outdoor? Is she needing to blow off some steam? Punching bag is useful and some girls find it very cool to be kickboxing. It’s a challenge as we are all gaining weight and not exercising... She may be depressed which saps motivation. I think a talk therapy is much needed for everyone during these challenging times...

    Van Der Zwaan Dance Studio is doing an excellent job with Zoom Dance classes.  They offer multiple classes for different styles of dance and offer a free trial class.  My 12 year old is taking multiple classes per week.  http://www.zwaandance.com/

    I bought a small rebounder for the apartment; my 12 yo uses it pretty regularly, although does not jump for long enough, so the weight gain is still a problem.

  • Physical activities for teens??

    (3 replies)

    My 13 year old is getting harder and harder to separate from a screen. I'd love to find some sort of organized activity for him. He's not sporty - so nothing involving a ball. Martial arts, rock climbing, mountain biking...something along those lines. A running club would be great as well. What are your teens doing?

    We recently started with Running Raptors http://runningraptors.org

    Try sailing! Our teen goes to Encinal yacht Club in Alameda. there are 1 and 2 person boats. They are outside the whole time. I think winter sign ups are soon. You do not have to be a member of the yacht club to sail. 

    I have a 13 yr old, 10 yr old, and 5 yr old who all go to Studio Naga.  There are online classes and in-person, socially distanced, no contact classes outdoors in Doyle Hollis park in Emeryville. In addition to martial arts training, they have us running on our off-days.  It's a lot of physical activity, and helps neutralize the screen time.  

  • Non-competitive sport for teen

    (5 replies)

    I’m looking for an after school non competitive sport for my 13 year  old son.  He is not very coordinated and has never liked participating in sports over the years.  He is putting on weight and we would like to get him involved in some form of exercise on a regular basis.   Any suggestions would be welcome. 

    RE: Non-competitive sport for teen ()

    I have an 11 year old son who would be a perfectly happy couch potato if we let him. As a result we have to make him exercise daily, as part of a slate of daily responsibilities he has to complete before free time (which on the weekends includes screen time). He goes to a free afterschool all-sports class at school 2-3 days per week, which isn't super athletic but at least it's movement. On the off days, he has to do 1-3 "Seven Minute Workouts" at home, or 20 minutes on our trampoline. He knows (because we have repeatedly told him) that if he ever wants to stop having exercise as a daily responsibility, he will need to take a regular physical activity that is at least 1 hour/twice per week. We have suggested pre-swim team and karate, because he's also not particularly coordinated or competitive. So far he's going along with the informal home exercise in lieu of the scheduled activity. I'd suggest giving your son the same choice - organized participation a couple times a week, or X at home (could also be jogging twenty minutes with a parent, whatever works for your family), before free time/screen time.

    RE: Non-competitive sport for teen ()

    The Berkeley YMCA has a structured program they do for kids wanting PE credit at Berkeley High, but they might do the same for any kid - it's fitness, so not competitive. Martial arts are also good, most aren't competitive, certainly for a while.

    RE: Non-competitive sport for teen ()

    You might look into a martial arts program. Both my son and daughter participated in martial arts for many years. Look for a dojo that is low key, non-militant, and comfortable with beginning teens. There are many different styles of martial arts. You might start with aikido. Any good quality dojo will allow a sample free lesson so your son can get a sense of what it's like. My kids (now 17 & 19) grew in confidence, self-esteem, and character as well as in physical strength and coordination. The self-defense aspect tends to be particularly appealing to teens.

    Caution: be aware of dojos that are particularly competitive or negative in their discipline techniques.

  • Tween exercise

    (7 replies)

    I'm worried about my 12-yr son's lack of exercise.. we've tried everything and he just isn't into any of it.  He liked swimming and did Barracudas for over a year, but we finally got tired of his complaints and the fighting and gave up.  He's not the most coordinated kid, and physical stuff just doesn't seem enjoyable for him.  By comparison our younger kid gets lots of exercise just running around with friends, soccer at school, using the trampoline, etc..  The older one would prefer not to move.  He'll hike or take a bike ride with us on the weekends, but it doesn't seem like enough.  Has anyone had any luck getting a sedentary kid moving??  

    RE: Tween exercise ()

    Our kids (12 & 14) are also inclined toward a sedentary lifestyle. Anything involving physical effort or joining a team has been a hard sell. They probably come by it naturally though as my husband and I are not athletic or extraverted - we exercise for health, not because we enjoy it. But we wanted to instill healthy habits in the kids. Our solution was to buy them both Fitbits and to give them both a steps goal for the day that they can achieve however they wish. That way, it's in their hands to monitor, not ours, which has greatly reduced the nagging. They know they should do things like walk the dog in the afternoon if they have spent a whole Saturday on the couch and their steps number is low. Interestingly, we learned that they were actually getting more steps then we expected (more than us!) during the week because they walk to school and walk between classes all day. So that allowed us to back off a bit. Another nice side effect of the Fitbit has been info about how well they are sleeping! Which is extra important for the teenage years.

    RE: Tween exercise ()

    I have had the same problem with my 15 year old boy for quite a few years.  I used to force him to play sports, and he wasn't half bad, but around 5th grade he just refused.  I tried hiring him a trainer last year and he did that for a month or so and then stopped.  I think there's a hole in the exercise industry.  Someone should come up with something for kids, especially boys, who aren't interested in organized sports.   Wish there was something. 

    RE: Tween exercise ()

    My two daughters were the same. I Ernie’s them at Terry’s wonderful Kuong Nu martial arts studio in Emeryville. It was great esp. for the older one.

  • Seeking personal trainer for teen

    (4 replies)

    Seeking personal trainer (Oakland or Berkeley) for funny sensitive overweight teen who needs to improve her health and fitness.

    Meredith Mills.She's a knowledgeable personal fitness coach with a warm personality:)

    I have recommended her before on this forum, and I again recommend Molly O'Rourke at Strong Island gym in Berkeley for teens. My teen son has been going to her, and I've also been seeing her twice a week for about a year.  My son has really enjoyed his hour-long sessions with Molly, and he hates everything, so that's saying something. Molly is down-to-earth, with a sunny disposition and a sense of humor, but she is very serious about the workout and really knows her stuff.  I've watched some of the other trainers at Strong Island too and they are all friendly and work with all kinds of people, if Molly's schedule isn't open. Here's the website: http://strongislandfitness.com/

    Jessica di biased at the ice chamber in Richmond near Costco. She is wonderful

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Seeking exercise ideas for preteen

Dec 2012

My 11 year old is energetic and active, but is not getting exercise outside of her school P.E. We gave her a bit of a break during the first semester of Middle School, but now want to find something fun and consistent keep her fit. She is pretty out of shape, but used to play soccer and is not interested anymore. Even once a week would be OK. Basketball is a possibility, but she is a beginner. Maybe Zumba? Any ideas? We live in Berkeley. Mom of Preteen

Regarding exercise options, I have been involved in youth Ultimate Frisbee for the last few years as a coach at my son's school (& playing a lot longer). A great sport for former (& current!) soccer players. There is a winter youth ''league'' (really weekly clinics & then games) at Gilman fields on Sundays, 2-4 pm for 10-14 year olds, 4-6pm for 14-18 y-o. More info here: http://www.bayareadisc.org/youth/leagues_winter2012.asp Michael

Your 11 year old daughter might enjoy our judo class. It is active, fun and we have several girls about her age. She will get good exercise but she will also gain both strength and confidence as her skills develop. I myself am a Berkeley parent with a 15 year old daughter and two sons who are off at college now. I also used to teach elementary school. I really enjoy using these experiences to work with our students. Our classes are very welcoming and supportive. We do have very successful competitors who compete nationally and internationally but most of our members just enjoy learning with us. You can find out more about us at www.hanabijudo.com. You are also welcome to contact me at my email address as well. Dan

Affordable Personal Trainer for HS Senior girl?

Nov 2011

Can anyone recommend a personal trainer for my daughter, a high school senior in Oakland. She played soccer for over 10 years but quit last year because of school demands. On her own she won't really push herself to exercise but really needs it. School offers minimal physical activity and school work is demanding and sedentary. When she played soccer she was in so much better shape and managed studying and other mental activity much better also - but she doesn't make the connection. I tried a personal trainer at my gym but was too expensive and it's hard for her to get to the gym on her own. Even someone to run with (would need to get her up to a high level first), do stretches, upper body, etc. would be great. If she could meet someone near Bart a few days a week that would be perfect. Thanks... mom wanting healthier habits

The Downtown Berkeley YMCA has over 700 teen members. We are definitely able to provide personal training, but we also have Teen Fitness Classes and many teens taking part in other fitness classes as well. If you are interested in taking a tour with your daughter, please don't hesitate to contact me at 510-665-3238 or the email provided. Eden eobrienbrenner [at] ymca-cba.org

Low-cost physical activity for obese 13 year old son

Nov 2009

Help! Our son has had weight issues since he was about 5 (he seems to have inherited the tendency to be overweight from his birth mother), but since he began to go through puberty last year, he has become obese. We are worried about his health. He eats pretty healthy, but does not like sports, but prefers to sit at a computer and play on-line games. I am looking for creative ways to get him moving more, doing something aerobic to burn calories. We are a one-income family with limted resources so we can't afford a personal trainer or a membership at the Y. I know I should be able to get him walking, but he just doesn't like it. His social life is nil. Are there any parents out there with overweight kids who have the same problem? Any advice is appreciated. Berkeley mom

Hello, Please contact me! I am the Director of Youth & Family Services at the Downtown Berkeley YMCA. You say you can't afford it, but we have a good financial assistance program and I can work with you to find good activities and solutions for your son that you can afford. You are right, personal training would still be expensive. But there are lots of other options. Your family are welcome to be my guest for a day and try it out! Our new youth fitness areas were designed with the obese child in mind. 510-665-3238 or email. Eden O'Brien-Brenner

I recommend calling the Berkeley YMCA to inquire about teen memberships. We have a family membership, but a couple of years ago my son's friend got a teen membership so hat he could go on his own. I don't remember the exact cost, but it seemed very reasonable at the time. Also, the YMCA has need based scholarships that you can apply for.

My son loves the Hilltop YMCA and goes regularly to workout (they have staff there to show you how to use the equipment) and play basketball. He made a really good friend there on the basketball court, and he has persuaded a couple of his high school friends to join as well. We love the YMCA because it is such a friendly, family-oriented place.

They also have reasonably priced athletic trainers on staff who could set up a work out program for your son. Some people pay for ongoing sessions, but others pay for a session or two, just to get started.

Have you checked with your son's pediatrician for recommendations? (If your son is overweight, it would be a good idea to have some medical oversight for any exercise program.)

Best of luck to you and your son. Happy YMCA mom

Have you considered bicycling? It's a great way to get out, burn calories and have some quality time together. Try the Bay Trail to avoid traffic and have a flat ride. Sometimes we'll ride down to the Bay Trail, do an out and back and then bus home!

The Berkeley Barracudas swim team (at King Pool) has also been great for my overweight child. There are other heavy kids, the head coach started swimming as a chubby kid, and we haven't heard of any bias.

Good luck and have fun! (Trying to be) Active Mama

How to encourage - even require - exercise for 16 yo boy?

Sept 2009

Hi - My son is an entering junior at Berkeley High. He has some athletic talent but has never really enjoyed sports, whether team or individual. We encourage him to ride his bike each day to school (about 1.5 miles each way), which he will often do, and he walks a dog about 15-20 minutes, 3 times a week. This year he has no mandatory PE, so he has no PE class on his schedule.

For his health, I believe he needs to find a way to exercise more intensely at least 3 - 5 times a week, and he agrees with me in theory. But so far he is unwilling to follow through, because he hates the way any activity would cut into his limited available time, and then there's no exercise he's tried so far that he really likes. He does like hiking and backpacking, but he's unwilling to do that each weekend with us because he loves his time with his friends in town. Any suggestions? Any one been in a similar situation? (Over?) concerned athletic mom

The Berkeley Y is close to Berkeley High and has am enormous array of options for everyone. The Y has a couple free days coming up, September 19 & 20. The public is invited to check it out. Please note; not all the regular classes offered at the Y are showcased on the 19th and 20th. The full Y schedule is on-line. Your son could inquire about classes that sound interesting to him, that may not be available on the 19th and 20th. The facility is wonderful. Rosalie

I think you may indeed be the over-concerned mom. Though I agree in principle that exercise is important and highly desirable, particularly in growing young people, I'm not convinced that it should be required beyond what they are required to do in school (and that isn't much...). Let me just say that as an adolescent, I was a couch potato and bookworm. AND I was overweight. Is your son overweight? Obese? It doesn't sound as if he is, and he's probably pretty healthy. Anyway, I am an exerciser now, big-time. Pretty much every day, and I love it. I feel bad without it. But it is definitely something that an individual has to decide for him- or herself. You can't really MAKE a person exercise, anyway. Have you ever seen the groups of kids who are out and about town in their gym clothes, supposedly jogging for their gym courses (this is a common sight in Albany)? Some of them are racing, some of them are dutifully jogging along, and others are lolly-gagging and strolling laughing in the back with their friends. You can continue to introduce your son to new things if he is willing: windsurfing or kayaking, mountain-biking or rock-climbing... but if he is not willing you face wasted $$, wasted time, and frustration. I would continue to offer him the good example of your own joy in exercise, continue to ask him to walk the dog and ride his bike and walk rather than being chauffeured, continue to invite him on outings, and one day he may get off his tush. still a bookworm, but former couch potato

Even though the school doesn't, you can require him to do a sport. For example, if he likes backpacking he might like the individual nature of cross-country running rather than a team sport. Indoor rock-climbing gym is another possibility. It's good to also build exercise into his life, as you have been doing. Suggest that he and his friends take a longer backpacking trip by themselves. They're probably old enough for the independence. Fiona

Physical activities for a 14 year old

May 2007

Hello, My daughter, going on fourteen, has recently expressed interest in starting some form of regular exercise. She is quite physical, and in good shape, but has never gotten into anything relating to athletics or movement. I personally believe that this has more to do with family dynamics than with her inclinations, but I say this only to stress that she isn't disinclined toward physical activities. One thing however, that she doesn't care for are sports, particularly team sports. So, no soccer, tennis, track, etc. I've been thinking along the lines of yoga, Akido, or dance, but want to find an environment that is friendly towards and has beginning classes for girls her age (one issue that keeps coming up is that many girls have been taking these things since they were young, and consequently most classes for her age are at the intermediate or advanced levels). If anyone has had good experiences anywhere with this issue, or if you have other suggestions for other physical activities for young teenage girls, I'd love to hear them. Many thanks. anon.

If your daughter is interested in martial arts, there are many many dojos in the Berkeley/Oakland area. Some of them have a lot of... male-dominant energy, but there are many that are more balanced. I was a member of Berkeley Cuong Nhu (on San Pablo @ Hearst) for five years and I found it to be very comfortable place. They have classes just for teens, so teens starting out aren't going to get stuck in kiddie classes and after some training they will have the option to join the adult classes as well. (There are also Cuong Nhu dojos in Berkeley, Emeryville, and Oakland that are all headed by women.) If you're shopping around, consider a dojo that lets you try a class for free, rather than signing up for a commitment beforehand. Krysten

Run, do not walk! Check out the Iron Works,800 Potter St, at the bottom of Ashby Ave in Berkeley. It is where the Whole Earth store used to be. My 15 year old son asked for a membership, and I was thrilled when I went to look. k

Many young people who don't enjoy organized (or unorganized) sports really enjoy Dance, Dance Revolution, a video game that is fun and also provides excellent aerobic exercise. Schools across the U.S. are experimenting with this excellent resource. At home you'd need a Play Station or X-Box, a DDR program, and an electronic mat: not a huge outlay of cash for something that provides great exercise and lots of entertainment. My grandchildren enjoy it and so do I. At the age of 60 I'm consistently exercising for the first time in my life--and loving it! caroline

My daughter was never that big on organized sports either, although she backpacked and hiked from a very young age. She was hesitant about tree-climbing while other kids were high up in the branches, so we signed her up at Ironworks for climbing after school when she was in 4th or 5th grade. She has been climbing ever since, and she is now a freshman in college, where rock-climbing is a popular class; she even went ice-climbing for the first time this winter. Rock climbing has made her very strong physically and it was a great confidence booster. You don't need to compete, except against your last best climb, and there's a cooperative element when you have a partner to belay you. The kids in the Ironworks classes seemed eager to encourage eachother and my daughter made some good climbing pals. I suggest you call and see if there is a beginning class for your daughter's age range if she seems at all interested. anon

Hi Anon, I think your daughter would really like the yoga class I teach for teenagers in the Oakland/Piedmont area. The class is small, and all the girls who come are beginners between the ages of 13 and 17. It's a warm, supportive atmosphere and a lot of fun. It's also a small class so she would get tons of individual instruction. If you have any questions about it please email me. Erica

What about fencing for your daughter? The El Cerrito Sport Fencing Center (off of Central just before the overpass to Costco) is a great place for young kids and teens. Both my boys, 11 and 16 have been taking classes there for a while. Great teachers,great group of kids. www.sportfencingcenter.com The owners are Karen and Darwin Martos. Hope it works out. anon

It is important to encourage anyone who wants physical exericise to do it. 24hr Fitness and the YMCA have great deals and facilities. She can go to classes or meet a time or two with a trainer and follow her own routine. If she is not interested in competitive sports please consider non competitive options like hiking or biking. Also you can hire a tennis, or swim instructor for a few private sessions and then find time on her own to practise. I am sure the people on this list have great ideas. Remember that most programs have at least a one time or first week free deal, ask when you call, and she can try things til she finds something that works. It needs to be something you can get her to and that works in your budget. claudia

There's a ton of dancing going on locally. Lots of it needs no skill or training and is free, and she can take a friend. Check out folk-dancing at UC, contra dancing every week (see calendar at www.sffmc.org or look up Bay Area Country Dance Society), Irish dancing Monday nights at the Starry Plough (free lessons at 7:30 or 8, dancing at 9). Then there's the ballroom dancing scene-- my favorites are the historical recreations like the Gaskell Ball in Oakland and the Regency-era balls put on by PEERS. And Fezziwig's warehouse, which is part of the Great Dickens Christmas Faire, has been attracting young people as participants/actors (workshops start in November; google Red Barn Productions). found dancing late

My son was like your daughter. Then about two years ago he started taking circus classes. If she has any interest at all in this I highly recommend it. My son is now part of the City Circus in San Francisco and loves it. It is a mixed age group (10 - 18) yet are all friends and look out for each other. The kids celebrate being unique, strong and healthy (you won't see them all dressed alike) They each have their talent, strengths and weaknesses and to tell you the truth I have never seen such a supporting group of kids, constantly encouraging and helping each other. They have become my son's social circle and I am sure they are a good part of the reason he's getting through BH as well as he is. There is a circus for youth on this side of the bay (Splash) and two in the City (Acrosports and ....) They all offer classes. My son is at Acrosports and he started at 14. Happy momma of a happy 16 year old