All-Ireland winning thrower warns of growing gym addiction among youngsters

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A former All Ireland hurling star and HSE drug education officer has warned of a growing reliance on gyms and exercise focused solely on developing the ‘perfect body’.

Imperial pitcher John Leahy (52), who now works as a Clonmel-based drug education officer, said while health and fitness were to be promoted as part of a good and healthy lifestyle , there were growing concerns that many young people across Ireland were getting addicted to gyms and exercise routines just to develop bodies that mirror the physiques seen in magazines and TV.

Such an obsession with developing or sculpting what they consider the “perfect body” becomes all-consuming and overshadows the health and lifestyle benefits of good exercise.

In some cases, there are fears that such obsessive “body sculpting” could become harmful to a person’s general health – including the use of supplements that can drastically alter body shape.

Mr Leahy – who won three All-Ireland hurling crowns with Tipperary after becoming the first player from Mullinahone to make the Premier County senior team – warned balance was key when it came to health, lifestyle and fitness regimes.

The pitcher warned that this was increasingly important given the image pressures exerted in modern life and, in particular, via television and social media.

“People now want to have that body image. They want to have big muscles, to have ‘arms’, they want to have ‘ripped’ stomachs,” he told TippFM.

“There is an addiction to it from the point of view that it becomes obsessive. You know, where do you stop?

He said young people were being misled into believing that hyper-developed bodies like those seen on television or in magazines were the norm.

“And I often say that to people you know, with coaching, with sport. They’ll often say, ‘Oh, the teams are out of shape. And I’ll say, “Measuring fitness – measuring where do you stop?”

“You see it with young people now. They push their bodies, their limits, their physique.

“They get addicted to it and become obsessed with it. It would worry me if I had a young boy or saw someone in the gym or working out all the time.

“What’s really important is balance in life.”

He said health and fitness were wonderful things to encourage in young people. Being active in local sports and sports clubs has also been very positive.

But he said it was essential that a sense of balance was encouraged at all stages so the benefits were not overshadowed by obsessive-compulsive training.

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