For many young people, appearance can seem like an important factor in gaining acceptance and popularity among peers, yet for some, efforts to obtain a muscled physique can lead to unhealthy habits that are harmful for long-term health.
In a recent study published in the Dec. 2012 edition of the journal Pediatrics, researchers from the University of Minnesota found that high percentages of youngsters working out at the gym resorted to steroids or other muscle-enhancing substances like creatine or dehydroepiandrosterone - commonly known as DHEA - to gain the coveted, ultra-toned bodies they craved.
Unhealthy habits for building muscle
An estimated 2,800 teenagers in Minnesota took part in a survey on physical fitness. Researchers noted that obtaining greater muscle mass was an important source of inspiration for many young men who responded to the survey, HealthDay News reported.
Similarly, about two-thirds of the young women claimed that becoming more toned was a driving force in fitness regimens.
While looking physically fit motivated young people, about 6 percent of young men and nearly 5 percent of young women reported that they used steroids to obtain their exercise goals, while 11 percent of boys took other muscle-enhancing drugs.
"We specifically asked whether they were doing those things to increase muscle mass or tone," said lead researcher Marla Eisenberg, Sc.D., M.P.H., an associate professor at the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis. "If a kid is often exercising for that reason, it might point to body-image concerns."
Researchers also noted that 45 percent of boys and 43 percent of girls altered their diets to bulk up, while 19 percent of boys and about 8 percent of girls used protein supplements to enhance their muscles.
Promoting positive body image and workout habits
The findings of this study shed light on the issue of body image and its impact on young people. According to researchers, an emphasis on looking good by gaining greater muscle mass could be linked to other growing trends.
As more sports stars and celebrities bulk up, it can send impressionable youngsters the notion that larger is better and promote an unhealthy fixation on image rather than overall wellness, which should be the cornerstone of any fitness plan.
As a personal trainer, it may not be uncommon to observe young people attempting to build muscle mass through regular workouts at the gym. While this can be a great way to support healthy living and boost activity levels, educating youngsters on the value of a comprehensive exercise and diet plan can lay the groundwork for a positive approach to wellness and can prevent potentially negative habits from forming.
Cybex is a provider and manufacturer of premium commercial fitness equipment. Content featured in the Cybex Fitness Blog is meant to inspire healthy living and wellness and should not be taken as medical advice. For medical advice please consult a doctor.