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The best way to encourage your teen to exercise (from experience)

Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.

The question: I really want to encourage my teenage daughter to be more active, but I don't want her to think I am being critical of her. Any advice?

The answer: On this particular topic, I have firsthand experience. As a teen, I had a terrible relationship with my body. My mom helped me learn to love being active.

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I know you can have a similar impact on your daughter's relationship to her body!

There were two things that were NOT helpful: Being told I needed to lose weight, or listening to "jokes" that were actually veiled critiques about my eating and exercise habits. They simply made me want to assert my independence by eating and not exercising. When I was heavier, I knew it. My pants were tight. Critical jokes, or comments about weight, were not helpful. They were just infuriating and demeaning.

Instead, be patient. The process of adopting a healthier lifestyle, and learning when and how to become more active, is a process. In part, your daughter just needs time to grow into herself.

For me, the fact that my mom was a positive health role model was extremely helpful. Be that for your daughter. Try to be active, keep healthy food in the house and always discuss health with your daughter, not weight.

I also grew to love being active because my mom helped me find something that was mine, a way I could take pride in being active. Growing up I had tried playing sports and dancing, but I felt awkward. So, I started volunteering at the YMCA. Volunteering allowed me to be active, but also allowed me to find my identity, and gave me something to be proud of.

Volunteering worked for me – maybe your daughter would enjoy taking a teen pilates or yoga class, learning a new sport, coaching a sport, mentoring or taking dance classes.

Trainer's tip: Consider investing in a few pieces of inexpensive home-exercise equipment. When I was inactive, I felt too embarrassed to be active with others. At the beginning of my health quest, I did exercise videos in my bedroom. The good thing about purchasing home equipment, like a stability ball or weights, is your daughter could see you use them, and your activity might inspire her. Worst case is that she doesn't use them, but you are active. Best case: You both get to be more active!

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