By John H.
A major challenge towards youth participation in active leisure, recreation and sport is obesity. Being overweight or obese can lead to a variety of health problems, partially because it effects active leisure and physical activity levels among youth. Those who are overweight or obese report not feeling confident in their abilities, are embarrassed while doing physical activity and playing sports, and do not enjoy participating. On top of that, verbal teasing, physical bullying, and other forms of victimization by peers are more prevalent among children who are overweight or obese; thus leading to negative leisure, recreation, and sport experiences. These negative experiences result in decreased participation in sport and recreation activities for overweight and obese youth. As a result, obese or overweight youth can oftentimes have little to no influence from sport and recreation professionals and the programs designed to engage youth with active and healthy lifestyle education.
Potential social psychological consequences of childhood obesity that influence well-being include stigmatization, social rejection, low self-esteem, negative body image, and victimization by peers through verbal and physical bullying and social exclusion (Shannon, 2014). Children who are classified as overweight tend to watch more television, spend more time playing video games, and other forms of inactive leisure because they often feel incapable in their physical abilities, or feel like they don’t belong in the sport or recreation setting. Obesity in youth occurs as a result of an imbalance between energy intake and energy outflow, therefore it is critical for overweight or obese individuals to implement physical activity into their leisure time. But this is easier said than done, as personal experiences of successes and failures in leisure activities are among the factors that have an impact on youths’ generalized leisure experiences.
During lecture five of Youth Development through Recreation and Sport, the class discussed the importance of support networks with recreation and sport professionals who play significant roles in empowering youth. Youth highly benefit from: being involved in decisions regarding their active leisure, recreation, and sport activities, developing necessary social skills through allowing them to be involved in the community, and creating opportunities for youth engage in meaningful service for a good cause (Shannon-McCallum, 2017). So, how can we help ensure overweight and obese youth are met with all the resources necessary to meet their full potential for an active and healthy lifestyle? Increasing youth’s confidence levels as sport and recreation professionals is key towards their development of athletic abilities is a key component to ensuring participation for life in active leisure, recreation, and sport. It is important that we make sure every young person can participate in physical activities without being victimized and feeling like they don’t belong. Youth workers of all sorts including coaches, instructors, teachers, and program/event leaders must ensure positive youth development to ensure positive recreation and sport experiences to encourage an active lifestyle, thus combatting youth obesity and ensuring positive experiences and life-long healthy decision making.
Shannon, C. S. (2014). Exploring the leisure experiences of children who are overweight and obese: Parent and child perspectives. Leisure/Loisir, 38(2), 139-163.