How todays society is affecting teenage mental and physical health
Recently I started a WINNERS TEEN course to help teenagers understand the importance of strength training and fitness, and it has opened my eyes into the society in which they are growing up in.
These days Social Media is portraying fitness to be glamorous, instant and for most part unachievable. Instagram models in tight tops, full of makeup with foam shoved down their pants is not the right message to be giving impressionable teenagers who vie for the ‘perfect body’. 7 day detoxes, “shed 10 lbs in 3 days’ and ’10 days to awesome abs’ are also just a few other ridiculous marketing messages circulating in the digital world they draw themselves into every day. Knowing that these crazy messages are filtering into the innocent minds of teenagers, I wanted to try and change their perception.
The media promotes messages enforcing fitness being ‘perfect’, easy and instant. However the truth behind it is it’s tough, it isn’t pretty, it’s hard work, it takes dedication and often takes longer than you think to really achieve your goals.
Over the past few weeks, I have been slightly immersed into the minds of teenagers, and have realised that teenagers are growing up in a society that favours them being inactive and encourages them to predominantly understand and want ‘instant gratification’. (Instant gratification is a term that refers to a tendency, to forego a future benefit in order to obtain a less rewarding but more immediate benefit. Those who seek instant gratification are at risk of substance abuse, obesity and many other issues. They also find it difficult to regulate their emotions and suffer from mood dysfunctions) SHOCKING!!
Gone are the days of waiting patiently for rewards and gone are the days of being active. Nowadays everything is at their fingertips. The digital worlds means they can instantly shop, search for information and be “social” at the click of a button. Most kids, when they get home turn to their phones or tablets as a means of communication with friends. Teenagers also don’t play out as much anymore; I mean why would they, when they can virtually play with their mates from the comfort of their own sofa.
Before I touch further on teenagers and their activity levels, what is alarming is that this instant gratification ‘Amazon Prime Era’ they are growing up in could be having negative neurological effects on them. There is a lot to be said about waiting patiently for things. The hormone Serotonin is released when we are controlled to wait – this hormone stabilises our mood, as well as feelings of wellbeing and happiness. This lack or need to wait patiently for anything these days could be resulting in reduced Serotonin levels, and studies have shown that low levels of serotonin can lead to depression, anxiety, suicidal behaviour, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
One way to increase Serotonin is through exercise, and we also know that exercise is one of the only ways that we can increase endorphins ‘ the happy hormone’ making us feel fabulous!
More recently a study found that the proportion of teenagers who are clinically depressed more than doubled from 14% to 35% during the first nine months of the pandemic. Meanwhile anxiety orders have jumped from 13% to 29%. Anxiety is now hitting kids from as young as four-year olds, One in five teenagers now have feelings of anxiety. That’s INSANE!
Now back to fitness. There has been a huge shift in today’s society about strength training being one of the most important methods of training – and as someone who suffered years with depression and severe sciatica whilst hammering cardio sessions, I can first-hand vouch that shifting to weights and resistance training was the best thing I ever did to improve my inner strength, confidence and body functionality. The benefits of strength training include building muscle, reducing risk of injury, improving your heart health, increasing confidence, improving bone density and improving mobility.
As we age, our mobility decreases, and there are several factors that contribute to this but two of them are that muscle mass and strength decrease (which is why it is so important to help preserve muscle mass), and the other is the purely how active you are. Recent studies have found that teenagers are at the highest risk of being physically inactive, and in their late teens, they are likely to get as little exercise as seniors, 60+ – They are now being compared to being as active as their Seniors!
Studies have also shown that 75% of girls aged 12-19 do not get the recommended amount of activity required (60mins) recommended by the WHO (World Health Organisation).
To me this is absolutely shocking! Are our teenagers going to be suffering mobility issues by the time they are in their 40s??
But can they be blamed? I mean think about it, life for them is a virtual world, everything now is on a screen, everything is at a click of a button, friendships formed over text and play time is hammering buttons on a key whilst speaking to their friends through their IPADS……Come to think of it Arthritis will be on the rise too in teenagers at this rate! There really is no reason to be active.
In my TEEN class I asked the teenagers what they considered a treat – the main answers I got was ‘donuts and IPADs’ – again can you blame them – what do both of these have in common, Instant gratification…all they really know right? kids and ‘treats’ is another blog altogether, one that I will write soon, as again – no wonder kids eating habits are conditioned to be unhealthy!…thats another story!
What was more shocking to me was some of the teenagers complaining of hip pain, knee pain and back pain. These are all common injuries of women who are much older, kids as young as 11 should not be experiencing these type of injuries.
We can’t control the media and we can’t control society shifting to a digital world, but what we can do is try and give teenagers the best options to grow up strong and confident. Running round and keeping active is vital for them, but there needs to be a shift towards strength training, and this should be at the forefront of their training from a young age. Teenagers from 11 should not be complaining of structural pain in their bodies which is due to them being sedentary, they should not be struggling to sit up straight, and they shouldn’t be complaining at the thought of a little hard work on their bodies for a few minutes. They really are not to blame as they are a product of the society they are growing up in, but this really needs to change. Do we want them to be weak, anxious and not really experience the true strength and confidence they can feel? Do we want them to be impatient and not realise the true gratification they get from waiting and working hard to achieve results?
Through my WINNERS TEEN course, we are trying to teach girls that fitness is about hard work, it is about coming together, it is about being strong and it is about making them realise how fabulous they can feel from the inside, because all teenage girls deserve that!
Until next time!