Exercise and nutrition tips from teen fitness expert


Editor’s note: Reporter Emmet Kowler interviewed Chris Coffey, an exercise physiologist at I.EM.PHIT, an exercise and nutrition clinic for teens with special health needs, for a story about the clinic. Coffey also offered specific advice to teens about how to improve and think about their health.

Plan your meals ahead. Teens are prone to impulsiveness, which makes them more likely to eat pizza if their friends are eating pizza.

Be wary of foods that seem or claim to be healthy. Gatorade, fruit juices, chips and crackers – even the “Baked” variety – all claim to be healthy but in reality supply little nutritional value and encourage mindless eating.

If school lunch is “disgusting,” pack your own. Last night’s leftovers are often the best option if you have access to a microwave, or sandwiches, if not, but go easy on the mayo.

Always always always eat breakfast. Breakfast should actually be your biggest meal of the day because then you have all day to burn off the calories. Dinner should be your smallest meal.

Drink lots of water.

Make your health a priority, not TV or video games.

Pay attention to how different foods make you feel. Teens are more about the “here and now” as opposed to thinking about the future. If teens can focus on how they feel when they eat different foods, they will realize that the healthy food actually makes them feel better- physically as well as mentally. Listening to your body is a skill that takes practice, but eventually, you’ll want to make a choice that makes you feel good.

Bad nutrition can impact you permanently. Poor diets affect teens significantly because they’re still developing and they could develop a dangerously slow metabolism or be overweight for the better part of their lives.

Be active. Find things to do that keep you active, but they don’t have to be competitive or high intensity. It’s better if they are manageable and easy to maintain on a day-to-day basis, such as gardening, riding your bike, going for hikes, dancing, skipping, walking, and more. Do not always look for the convenient and easy way to do things.

It only gets harder the older you get. For most people, your metabolism slows down as you get older, so even though you may feel like you’re not having any problems in junior high or high school, it’s almost a sure bet that you will need to be more conscious of making better decisions as you get older. If you don’t try to maintain healthy habits now, it will be that much harder as you get older. That’s just a fact of life.