Grade-school PE classes often feature push-ups and sit-ups, and for good reason —they benefit the health and fitness of every age. In fact, push-ups and sit-ups, and other exercises like them, are critical in a teen's development. If your 13-year-old hasn't started doing these calisthenics, it's time to start. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that young people get at least an hour of activity per day to reduce the risk of weight gain and chronic disease. Physical activity also improves mood, function and socialization -- plus, it's just fun!
Benefits for Young Teens
Sit-ups and push-ups count as muscle-strengthening activities. The CDC says that children and adolescents should fit in some of these types of movements at least three days per week as part of their regular activity.
Muscle-strengthening exercises improve coordination, muscle tone and proprioception. Sit-ups help strengthen a teen's abdomen and contributes to good posture and overall body strength. Push-ups focus on the upper body, particularly the chest, shoulders and arms, which helps a kid get better at sports, dance or everyday chores.
Muscle-strengthening should be age-appropriate, of course. It's easier to build strength in young children by letting them hang on the monkey bars or climb trees. However, a 13-year-old is plenty old enough to take on more "adult" exercises, such as push-ups and sit-ups, that benefit from some coaching and guidance to develop optimal form.
Bones are a type of tissue that grow, just like other tissue in a teen's body. A teen's bones grow the most before age 20, and exercise fortifies bones and encourages them to grow strong and resilient. Bone-strengthening exercises should also be part of a teen's overall physical fitness program at least three times per week.
Impact and weight-training activities help build bone. Running, jumping and most sports count, as do gymnastics and push-ups. Push-ups are especially helpful in building bone in the arms and chest, places sometimes forgotten when the focus is only on running or jumping.
While swimming and cycling can benefit a 13-year-old's cardiovascular and muscular health, they don't build bone in the same way that a push-up will.
Consult with a fitness professional or doctor, but most 13-year-olds can even participate in light weight training. If dumbbells and machines aren't appropriate or available, rubber resistance in the form of bands and tubes certainly are.