By Dr. Charlotte Markey

At the beginning of every new year advertisements for reduced prices on gym memberships and diet plans pop up everywhere.  These industries know that the number one New Year’s resolution year after year is to “get in shape” – often defined as weight loss and increased fitness.  You may find yourself motivated by these ads or other messages you see on TikTok, Instagram, or YouTube about exercise routines.

Being physically active has so many different benefits. Because of this, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that kids aged 6-17 years engage in one hour of physical activity each day. That may sound like a lot, but remember that physical activity can include any type of movement. Walking to school, riding your bike, swimming, playing sports, and even cleaning your room (if you are doing a good job!) are all forms of physical activity.  Most likely, just getting through your day includes some degree of physical activity.

Scientific research indicates that regular physical activity is good for both your psychological and physical health. Kids who are physically active tend to be more fit and have stronger bones and muscles. In fact, almost every part of your body benefits from physical activity: your heart, lungs, digestive system, immune system, even the genes in your cells seem to gain protection from physical activity. Being physically active is also associated with better mental health and lower rates of depression. Even some activity—a couple of hours per week—has been linked with better mental health as kids get older. Being physically active may even be good for your brain and your ability to learn.

Another perk to becoming active when you are young is that if you are regularly active you are more likely to develop an appreciation for how good you feel when you move your body. You’re more likely to develop good habits you stick with as you get older. If you develop a love of running when you’re young, you’re more likely to run as a form of exercise when you’re an adult. We all become more vulnerable to health problems as we get older, such as heart disease and cancer. Being active can help prevent some of these health problems and may even help you live a longer life.

Sometimes people like the idea of being physically active, but have a hard time getting motivated.  It’s most important if you’re trying to be active that you participate in activities that you enjoy.  That may seem really basic, but often people feel like they should do what other people are doing, such as lifting weights or playing soccer.  But if you don’t like those activities, you’re unlikely to stick with them.  It can help to be creative in thinking about activities you may enjoy:  dance, karate, yoga, or even roller skating may all be options worth exploring.

Scientific research suggests that there are some other “tricks” that may help you develop a physical activity routine and stick with it.  One of these tricks is to develop a commitment strategy.  What this means is that you find a way to help yourself commit to sticking with the habit you are trying to develop.  This could entail telling all your friends what you are going to do so you feel sort of embarrassed if you back out.  It may entail signing up for a dance class, so that you feel motivated to go each week.  Or, maybe you meet up with a friend to go on a walk or a run.  It could even entail setting a reminder on your phone so that you don’t forget you intended to do something active.

It can take a number of weeks to develop a physical activity habit, so be patient with yourself.  Also, it’s important to remember that although most kinds of movement are good for you, obsessing about how much you exercise is not. It’s important that physical activity is a positive part of your life.

This article was adapted from


Dr. Charlotte Markey. Psychologist, professor and scientist, Dr. Markey has been a leading body image expert for more than two decades. Now, Dr. Markey applies her academic research, her findings after interviewing hundreds of girls, and her practical experience as mother of a teen to a new, evidence-based yet easy-to-read book for girls ages 9yrs -15yrs. THE BODY IMAGE BOOK FOR GIRLS: Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless. And now, BEING YOU: The Body Image Book for Boys.