OMG Sparkteen!!!

There are hundreds of diet/fitness programs and trackers out there that are meant for anyone that wants to lose weight, slim up, gain muscle, or even just keep track of their health. But there is one thing they all have in common: they’re meant for adults. I’m always hearing about the teen obesity epidemic in America and how unhealthy today’s teens are; so it makes me wonder, how come there are so little health programs for teens? Being a 14 year old girl, I was especially bothered by this and was curious as to what options are even available to a teenager in search for a healthier lifestyle. I brought up Google and started searching. I was fairly surprised by what I found. They were several organizations that support teen health, but only 3 programs (that I could find) that were meant for teens. Two of them were expensive and practically useless (according to the reviews I found), but the last one is a different story. As a matter of fact, it was much more than I could have ever asked for. It’s called SparkTeens.

                SparkTeens (www.sparkteens.com) is actually the teen version of an adult program called SparkPeople (www.sparkpeople.com ).  They are virtually the same thing, but one is a community of teens and the other is a community of adults. There are also a few features only available to adults. But let’s focus on SparkTeens. It’s a website along with an app that is available in the iTunes app store. The best part about it? Everything is completely free! You don’t have to pay for any of the program, because it is paid for by a few ads they have placed around the website. But don’t worry; the ads are far from being an issue. There are so many great features on this website and you can use as many or as little of them as you would like. When you first sign up, you choose one of two programs they have. One is for teens that are trying to lose weight (more than just one or two pounds) and the other is for teens that just want to live a little healthier, start working out, or want to slim up a bit. Based on what program you choose, your current age and weight, and a few other factors, it automatically gives you a fitness and nutrition plan. It gives you the amount of calories, carbs, fat, protein, calcium, and iron you should have each day as well as how much (and what kind of) exercise you should be getting each week. You can go in and change the fitness related goals anytime you want, but the nutrition goals will always stay the same. There are several tracking features on this website that are extremely helpful. You can keep track of what you eat during the day entering in each food you eat in the nutrition tracker. If the food you were looking for wasn’t pre-entered in the website, you can easily create one for it. There is also a fitness tracker that is virtually the same thing, except you enter in any exercise you do instead of food you eat. It will tell you how many calories you burned during your exercise (unless you created a custom one) and tracks it. There’s also a water tracker, where you click on a little water icon every time you drink a cup of water. The last tracker is the measurement tracker. If you choose the program for losing weight, you can use this to keep track of your body measurements throughout your fitness journey. It’s a lot of features to use, but after using them for at least a few days, it makes a big difference!

                Motivation is a huge part of any fitness journey. It’s also a huge part of SparkTeens. The teens on this website are there to encourage each other, and there are a number of ways they can do so. The main one is through the Spark teams. They are like online clubs you can join with different discussion boards and group goals. Some of them aren’t even fitness related, like the ones for book-lovers, Christians, or homeschoolers. It’s a great way to get connected with other teens like you. The email/messaging system is good to keep in touch with other members and the Spark teams your involved in. There is also the option to set up a Sparkpage, which is like a Facebook profile page where you can update your status, have other people comment on things, ect. You can also choose to keep a blog on the site about whatever you want. Most people write about their day-to-day progress, and others can compliment them or give them tips. I like to post recipes and exercises on mine. The editors of SparkTeen also have a blog that they post on every day. It includes motivational quotes, pictures, tips, as well as a recipe and exercise of the day, and other articles. Even if you choose not to use the tracking features, having SparkTeens for the motivation alone is worth it.

                SparkTeens is made up of many other features, and even I haven’t discovered them all yet. The creators of this website try to make it more entertaining by adding things like polls, quizzes, and SparkPoints, which is where you earn points for basically everything you do on the website. You can spend them on virtual snacks and meals to send to your friends. They also want to keep their users informed about every aspect of health, fitness, and nutrition. They do so with the hundreds of articles they have available about everything from properly dieting to information about different diseases to how to correctly do a specific exercise. The final feature I want to mention is SparkRecipes. It is a lot like Allrecipes or some other recipe sites, but completely made up of healthy foods. Each recipe has the complete nutrition information, reviews, and can easily be added to your nutrition tracker. It’s actually its own website (www.sparkrecipes.com), so you can visit it even if you aren’t on SparkTeens or SparkPeople. SparkTeens is such an amazing website with all the features it has to offer. Frankly, I’m surprised that it isn’t a lot more popular than it is. I hope at least a few of you out there check it out; you won’t be disappointed!