A recent study conducted by researchers at Kings College London has found that obesity rates among 11 to 15-year-olds are still rising. Using GPs’ electronic health records in England to monitor trends over 20 years, researchers analysed weight, height and body mass index (BMI) measurements for more than 370,000 children from 1994 to 2013.
While the findings showed that the overall rate of growth of obesity levels has slowed in the past 10 years, the rate of growth within the age group of 11 to 15-year-olds has in fact risen by 37% in the last decade.
This leaves this age group of early teens not only most at risk of health problems including heart disease and type 2 diabetes but mental health issues including depression and anxiety.
Talking to the BBC about the recent study, Colin Michie, Chair of the nutrition committee at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said that while the situation is not getting worse, “it still leaves us with lots of problems, particularly among teenagers, who are not easily directed, at a sensitive time in their lives.”
But how do we encourage teens to foster more healthy lifestyles? At WR, we believe running could be the answer, not only helping teenagers to manage their body weight but also combat a whole host of other issues…
A means of overcoming feelings of exclusion and self-consciousness
Unlike the team sports offered at secondary schools such as hockey and netball, running can be discovered and enjoyed independently without risk of feeling self-conscious and subject to criticism, particularly at this sensitive age. GP Juliet McGrattan said:
“Teenage years are such an important window in which to foster healthy lifestyles but more sedentary hobbies can take over and an increase in self-consciousness can often put teenagers off sport.”
With secondary schools plagued by playground hierarchy, joining a team sport can often feel daunting, particularly when sports teams are often dominated by social cliques.
While keeping weight under control and reducing the risk of chronic illnesses including heart disease and type 2 diabetes, running is a great way of improving cardiovascular health.
Boosts self-esteem & encourages engagement in other sports
One of the great things about running is that improvements in performance are tangible from early on. This self-awareness of ones own improved fitness levels will not only boost self-esteem but is likely to encourage teenagers to partake in, and experiment with, other more social sports such as football or athletics.
Manage stress levels
Exams, revision periods and decisions over subject choices can be mentally taxing for teenagers. Running reduces the body’s stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol and is the perfect way to help teenagers ‘clear their heads’ through busy exams periods.
Encouraging your teenage son or daughter to come for a run with you, run the dog around the park, hit up the treadmill at the local gym or even partake in an event with you is a great way to get your child into sport and will help to inspire a healthy and active lifestyle.
However, it is worth considering that like adults, teenagers need to gradually build up their distance and frequency of running. GP Juliet McGrattan advises that “while there aren’t any strict guidelines as to how much running is too much for teenagers, growth plates are not fully formed until a person’s late teens so some care is needed.”
She says that cross training, core strength and conditioning are just as important to teenagers as adults and that good posture at this age is vital. “Enjoying a range of sports for all round fitness is ideal”, she says.
Juliet also advises encouraging good nutrition and plenty of sleep, essential for a teenager’s energy levels, repair and recovery.
If you’re keen to encourage your daughter to take up running, why not run in an event with her? Our WR10K Race Series now offers a 5K option – perfect for runners of all abilities.
Our 5K option is open to ages 12+, offering a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and the perfect environment for a first race. For details, visit: http://bit.ly/13bmjZe