A Workout Plan to Lose Weight for Teen Girls

Rear view of teenage girls going for a walk

Adolescent obesity is a growing health concern for both parents and their teenagers, and teenage girls are particularly at risk for complications due to being overweight. A 2011 study conducted by researchers at the University of California found that teenage girls who were obese were more likely than their male peers to develop high blood pressure, a risk factor for future cardiovascular disease. Obese and overweight teens are also more likely to have low self-esteem. A workout plan tailored to the social lives of teen girls can not only improve their physical health but also positively impact their self-esteem.

Setting Goals and Expectations

Though an active lifestyle is a cornerstone of teen girls' health, the risks of developing an unhealthy eating disorder or distorted self-image are also critical. A meeting with a pediatrician is a good starting point for teen girls. Family pediatricians have an established and ongoing relationship based on trust to promote long-term success. A preliminary meeting with a pediatrician establishes personalized, realistic fitness goals. Generally, a weekly weight loss of no more than 2 pounds is safe. For most teen girls, achieving a body mass index below the 85th percentile for her height is a realistic weight loss goal.

Getting Started

Beginning slow and then gradually increasing workout intensity and duration reduces the likelihood of injury. Simple lifestyle changes offer a doorway to fitness that is manageable for teens with busy, demanding academic and social schedules. A daily goal of 60 minutes of aerobic exercise is ideal for teens, but those minutes do not have to occur all at once. A pedometer is a fun, easy way for teen girls to track their physical activity through steps. Wear the pedometer for a week to get an average daily step calculation, and then set a goal to increase the steps by 500 each day until the teen is taking 10,000 steps daily.

Add Variety

A successful workout routine includes both aerobic and strength-training exercises. Committing to an after-dinner stroll around the block, or building in a 10-minute dance break between homework assignments are simple ways to add aerobic exercise into the day. One way to fit in strength training is to perform simple exercises during commercial breaks while watching television. For example, during a commercial break, stand in front of the couch and slowly squat with arms straight until just before your bottom hits the cushion and then stand back up. Repeat the move eight to 10 times, rest for 30 seconds, then repeat until the commercial break is over. Though 60 minutes of daily aerobic exercise is a good goal, build in resting and recovery periods for muscle groups after strength training begins. For example, if one evening is dedicated to squats that isolate the lower-body, focus on push-ups or crunches the next night to focus on a different muscle group.

Keep it Social

Combining workouts with social activities keeps teen girls engaged in their physical goals. Recreational team sports leagues provide structure for workouts without the pressure of tryouts and team cuts. If classes offered through a gym are too expensive, host the class in the living room: Invite friends over for a sleep over and do a Pilates or yoga DVD together. Family support is crucial for teen weight loss success. Keep family activities physical; instead of seeing a movie together, walk a nearby trail, rent kayaks or take a family hike.

Notes on Nutrition

Weight loss for teens requires a two-pronged approach that balances workout routines with nutrition. Teen girls require between 1,800 and 2,400 daily calories for normal growth; about 50 percent of those calories should come from complex carbs, about 25 percent from protein and about 25 percent from healthy fats. Energy needs increase after implementing a workout routine. Teens should eat a small meal of fresh fruits or whole grains about one hour before working out, and a small protein-filled snack within half an hour of working out. During workouts, teens should drink about 3 cups of water for every hour of exercise.