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FITNESS: Teen, COVID and the challenge of obesity

Experts agree that obesity is an epidemic among teens
Gaming and other static activities could be the reason for the growing obesity problem among teens, experts say. (File - Metro Creative)

Ron Cain | Contributed

Being a teen is not easy, and COVID-19 has made it more challenging.

The visceral nature of teens is that of a member of a pack. They gather in groups, using the social milieu to build their sense of self and place in society. Take away their social connections and sports, and you drastically alter their landscape.

Before COVID-19, many teens enjoyed team sports, parties, and navigating the challenges of high school. It goes against their fundamental character to isolate at home, study at home, learn from home.

Here is a brutal fact: Before COVID-19, only 15 per cent of teens met the standard for recommended exercise.

Experts agree that obesity is an epidemic among teens.

Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, most of my peers were pretty lean. There were no computers, no cellphones, only two stations on our black and white TV and no remote. We pretty much spent as much time as possible outdoors because it was more interesting than being indoors. Transportation was not by way of a mom-driven minivan; it was your feet or your bike.

Over the last 18 months, that 15 per cent of teens getting adequate exercise has dropped by an astounding 75 per cent. Mental health professionals report an increase in anxiety and depression. The demand for high-speed internet with unlimited data has soared.

Frustrated parents – faced with a teen gaining weight, depressed and anxious – are looking for help.

So what can parents do?

As a recreation/fitness person and one-time teen outreach worker, I knew I wanted my kids to be very busy in activities. Each kid is different. For some, it’s 4-H. Others are maniacal BMX riders.

For my girls, it was dancing like no one was watching. From age 3 to 18 they were addicted to tap, ballet, jazz and more. Spare time was filled with Brownies then Guides and Pathfinders. Later, karate.

The key here was an early introduction to having fun while getting fit. Studies have shown that physical fitness starts to decline at age seven for the average, non-sports-addicted child. By the time they graduate, 8 out of 10 kids are not physically fit and about half of those are significantly overweight. Houston, we have a problem.

Solutions – next column …


Ron Cain is the owner of Sooke Mobile Personal Training. Email him at or find him on Facebook at Sooke Personal Training.

MORE FITNESS: Exercise can ease symptoms of anxiety, depression

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