Looking after yourself

As a teenager, there are so many things to think about. Some of the most important are concerned with looking after yourself.

Exercise

All the medical evidence shows that regular exercise is very important. Not only does it keep your body in good shape but it helps prevent health problems in later life. It has other benefits too – when you exercise, the body produces chemicals called endorphins which help you feel better generally.

Think about how much exercise you do and whether you have enough exercise in your life.

Some medical experts are very concerned that today’s young people are not getting enough exercise and we are becoming a nation of ‘couch potatoes’. They think this could be caused by increased use of cars, watching TV or playing computer games rather than being active and also a decrease in sports time in schools.


Healthy eating

It is essential that we all have a healthy balance of foods in our daily diets. Young people can often have big appetites, but it is really important that you don’t to have too much of the wrong kind of foods. Foods and drinks that have a high number of calories such as, biscuits, cakes, crisps, fried foods and sugary, fizzy drinks have very little nutritional value and they often fill you up and do not leave room for the healthier foods which your body needs to function properly.

A healthy balanced diet should include:

  • A minimum of five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables per day
  • A reasonable amount of starchy foods within your meals, such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes (ideally brown, wholemeal or wholegrain varieties)
  • A modest amount of dairy products/milk, (choosing low-fat varieties is often the best option) per day
  • A modest amount of high protein foods within your meals, such as beans, lentils, meat, fish, eggs

Food energy is measured in calories (kcal). An apple contains around 70 kcal, a can of soft drink contains around 140 kcal and a slice of pizza contains around 300 kcal. On the right is a table of the average amount of energy we need per day.

Having a healthy diet makes you feel and look better, as well as ensuring that your immune system functions properly – so do not compromise on the types of foods that you eat. Eat the best and feel the best.

Age Group Approximate
no. of kcals
needed daily

Boys 1 - 14 years 2,220

Girls 11 –14 years 1,845

Young men 15 -18 years 2,755

Young women 15 – 18 years
2,110

These figures are only a guide, and you should be aware that different people have different needs depending on a number of things, such as how physically active they are.


Dental hygiene

It’s important to look after and protect your teeth. Brushing your teeth regularly provides a simple and effective way of keeping your teeth and gums healthy, and your breath fresh. Most modern toothpastes contain fluoride, which helps to protect the teeth from decay. They also contain a mixture of ingredients which clean the teeth and help dispose of bacteria. It is also important to change your toothbrush when the bristles show signs of wear.


Skin Care and the Sun

People often say that they feel happier when it’s sunny. The ‘feel good factor’ is often influenced by the weather and whether the sun is shining. Psychologists have recognised a condition called SAD (seasonal affective disorder), which makes sufferers feel fed up and down when they haven’t experienced enough natural sunlight. However, there can also be dangers associated with the sun.

In the past, for example in Elizabethan and Victorian times, it was fashionable to have a pale skin. Since the 1950s when foreign travel became more accessible, it became fashionable to have a tan. Many people today still like to have a tan and say it makes them feel better. If people are going to spend time in the sun, then there are safety precautions that should be taken to protect the skin from damaging UV rays.

The simplest form of protection is to cover up with light, loose clothing - but many people use sun protection products. These come in lotions, sprays, creams and gels and should be used regularly if exposed to the sun. Each product will have a sun protection factor (SPF) which gives a measure of how strongly the product will protect the skin. The higher the factor, the more protection it gives. Taking care of your skin is important and should be treated seriously.


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