From struggling to keep up with college-level coursework to working a part-time job (or two) for extra spending money, life after high school brings many challenges.
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And according to a recent study, a big challenge for many in their late teens and early 20s after receiving that high school diploma is fitting in time for exercise.
Young women, in particular, are struggling to meet daily exercise recommendations, the results showed.
How many minutes a week are you getting?
“Basically, women weren’t meeting those levels across the board, in any of the age groups,” explains physical therapist Dawn Lorring, PT, who did not take part in the study. “However, there was a larger drop-off once you got above the age of 17. So, once you hit 18 there was actually a larger drop-off in the female population than the male population.”
The study looked at more than 9,000 young men and women between the ages of 12 and 29. Researchers studied their activity levels by asking if they were meeting the recommended daily levels of activity.
For children and teens under the age of 20, recommendations call for 60 minutes per day, or 420 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous activity. For young adults older than 20, it recommends to achieve 145 minutes of exercise per week.
It’s not just about weight
Physical activity is important for all young people, especially young women because they can develop bone density issues that become larger problems as they age, Lorring says.
Up until about their mid-20s, women have a surplus where they are building more bone than they’re losing. However, once women reach their mid-20s, they lose the ability to make those gains and only make enough bone to replace what’s lost.
Finding time to fit it in
Lorring says transitioning to life after high school can be stressful and busy, but it helps to make a plan for exercise ― the same way you plan other events in your week.
“Make yourself pencil-in the time during the day or during the week that you’re going to get your activity in,” she says. “That way it’s another appointment on your schedule. It becomes more important to you.”
It’s critical to choose an activity that you enjoy, Lorring says. That way you don’t see exercise as something you have to do, but rather as something that you want to do. She recommends doing an activity with a friend or using music to help motivate you to keep moving.
Complete results of the study can be found in JAMA Pediatrics.