Consequences and Solutions
It’s no secret that Americans have become increasingly sedentary and it has caused an epidemic of health problems. More and more people have been sitting at desks and technology has made everything easier and faster and more accessible. As we have evolved, we have adapted our environment to our comfort, rather than us adapting to our environment. As this process continues, we are losing our ability to maximize our physical potential. Our brain-power is costing us our physical health. Our bodies have suffered as a result, and we are learning a very hard, costly lesson. The best thing we can possibly do now is make sure that we do not pass this problem onto the next generation, because the damage goes beyond physical health. It is a detriment to mental health and overall well-being.
Inactivity in youth is a huge problem. Enrollment in youth sports is down, and there are a few causes of this. Funding has been cut from many public schools system resulting in the suffering of athletic programs. Couple that with the availability of technology to kids and the amount of time they spend playing video-games or watching T.V. that they might have otherwise been running around outside, and you have the perfect storm for inactivity and the health issues it comes with. According to one study, “It appears that only about 30 percent of kids get the recommended 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity every day. The result: Roughly one-third of America’s youth are becoming overweight or obese.”
There is evidence that lack of physical activity and involvement in sports can lead to a higher engagement of high risk behavior and even cause mental health problems and suicide attempts, all of which are on the rise. Technology that appears to have us more connected than ever may actually be causing feelings of isolation and loneliness and a lack of face to face interaction with each other that is particularly important in the development of kids. The relationships we maintain online are superficial compared to the emotional satisfaction of face-to-face interaction and connection. The research is showing the exception to this is youth who participate in social media but still maintain healthy levels of social activity.
Again, children who become habitually inactive are at risk for more than just poor physical health. Their brains and physiology are extremely plastic, meaning they are continuously being molded by new experiences, and they are very pliable to allow for acquisition of new skills. Brain development and physical literacy have a positive relationship. As our brains develop we become capable of more physical activities and the more physical activity we engage in, the more our brain develops and new pathways are formed and skills we acquire. Psychologists agree that we largely become who we are because of positive reinforcement. When we are rewarded for good behavior, we repeat the behavior until it becomes a part of our make-up.
Enter weightlifting, a sport which requires precise awareness of movement mechanics and constantly pushes the body to form new adaptations as you gain strength and technical proficiency. Not only does weightlifting create formidable athleticism, it benefits the psychology of its participants. This is equally important in combating the consequences of inactivity for kids. It is a mentally tough sport with a high level of reward. Progress takes focus, time, patience, humility, and hard work. When these variables accumulate into achievement, the whole process and feeling of accomplishment becomes a part of your character. This is a continual process that we build slowly with our young athletes. And it is in this process of training, failing, overcoming failure, and then succeeding that we find what really matters and gravitate towards it.
Sports are our vehicle for developing positive, healthy habits that affect each area of our lives. That is why we do what we do. The absence of physical activity needs to be addressed because it threatens the well-being of our kids in all kinds of ways. We provide an environment that strives to make time in the gym fun and fulfilling for our kids, so that we can lay down a foundation that will last a lifetime. Inside the walls of our gym we make meaningful connections, both relationally and with movement and technique. At SoCal we believe in the sport of weightlifting and in its power to positively benefit anyone who is willing to make a commitment to it, and we are pushing to share this with as many kids as possible.