Lakeshore Report

How Getting Moving Motivates Teen Self-Esteem

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By: Hilary Powell

July 25, 2014 — It is an emotion hard to escape when the catalyst comes from within.

“After you they hear it, like, oh you’re ugly, oh you just, you just want to fit in but you can’t. Well, that start to believe that and i don’t think it should be like that at all,” says 14-year-old Kalynn Cooper of Hammond, Ind. She says some of her friends struggle with bad body image.

“It’s all about knowing who you are,” the high school freshman says.

She’s not the only teen who knows someone uncomfortable in their own skin.

A May 2014 report from the Indiana Youth Institute shows Hoosier high school students have higher rates of being obese and overweight than their peers nationally.

“The U.S. surgeon general has said his number one concern on the health of children is inactivity,” says Bill Stanczykiewicz, president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. “It’s a sedentary lifestyle. And if these data indicate that fewer kids are being physically active, it is a huge cause for concern.”

Stanczykiewicz says extracurricular activities and organized sports teams can boost teen body image.

“Girls who participate in these team sports are less likely to be depressed; they’re less likely to turn to drugs and alcohol, they’re even less likely to become moms before marriage,” he says.

But a recent Physical Activity Council survey shows a four percent decline in American youth involved in physical activity.

Cooper, a freshman at Thea Bowman Leadership Academy recently spent time at a youth leadership summit at the Indiana Black Expo.

When not spending time with peers, she’s playing volleyball — a passion but also a preventative measure.

“So I like volleyball,” she says. “It helps me a lot since i want to, try to lose weight. I like to get very active. Any everybody wants me to get active because I don’t want to be like my dad. He passed away of diabetes and I think that’s very important to me because I don’t want to have that.”

Hosting health fairs is one way the Indiana State Department of Health is getting young Hoosiers moving and reminding parents to participate.
“If you’re involved with your child, then they’ll want to be more apt to do the things you do, like going walking together as a family,” says Antoinette Holt, director of the Office of Minority Health for Indiana.

Experts also say sports can encourage inclusion and long-term life skills.

“You learn about the need to work together,” Stanczykiewicz says. “You learn about all the other players on the other team and what that means to compete, but to compete with sportsmanship. Obviously, the ruling of a referee, uh, is no different than maybe a decision a teacher gives you or in your adult years, what your boss is going to be.”

17-year-old Herschel Thompson of Gary, Ind. says running track for two years built mental and physical endurance.

“It made me stronger with everything I did, such as schoolwork,” he says. “It made me work harder at my schoolwork, as well as physical fitness and stuff like that. You’re on a track and you come to the first curve, it’s like, man, you can’t do this, but then you keep going. It was able to tell me hey, you can go through anything; you can persevere through the things, your challenges and stuff like that.”

Experts also say activities may not always be as costly as they seem.

“One of the things we want parents to know is a lot of these youth sports leagues are required to allow kids to play for free,” Stanczykiewicz says. “Maybe sometimes they ask for volunteer time from the parents or some other ways you know, that they family can participate. Don’t let that fee scare you away.”

Participating in physical activities, sport or not, is a win regardless for young people.

“Even if it’s like marching band, that’s a sport,” Holt says. “Or, gymnastics, or even doing a play group or something like that. That will get our kids more active so they won’t be so sedentary. If we instill in them early the importance of taking care of yourself now, we’ll have more healthy and productive adults in the future.”

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