Teen fitness challenges could lead to long-term health problems - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Teen fitness challenges could lead to long-term health problems

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The belly button challenge. The belly button challenge.
Stacking coins along the collar bone. Stacking coins along the collar bone.

A couple of bizarre social media fitness challenges are pushing some teens to prove how thin they are.

Experts said the type of pressure they are putting on children is dangerous and urged parents to pay close attention to online activity.

“These challenges are extremely dangerous,” said Joe Carabase, owner of MELT Fitness.

One is the so-called “belly button challenge,” which supposedly measures if a participant is skinny enough.

If a teen can reach around from behind and touch their belly button, the challenge is completed.

“They don't measure anything,” Carabase said. “That could just mean you have long arms.”

Then, there’s stacking coins along the collar bone. If they don’t roll off, the participant is again deemed skinny.

Carabase said the challenges can be emotionally damaging and cause teens to gamble with their long-term health.

“A lot of these challenges are cyberbullying, and socially kids will talk about it in school, online,” he explained. “’Were you able to do it? So-and-so wasn't able to do that.’ And that has a tremendous effect on people.”

In the U.S., one or two out of every 100 children will struggle with an eating disorder, according to experts.

Eighty percent of all 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat and 42 percent of third grade girls wish they were thinner.

Mary Dobson, a certified eating disorder specialist from Easton, said parents need to be more aware than ever.

“We have a national obesity epidemic, but in this area we have an eating disorder epidemic,” she said. “So we have to be very careful that we're not swinging children to the other extreme.”

Dobson said the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to body image.

“Things like meal skipping, excessive exercise, inappropriate attention to appearance and those concerns,” she said. “Kids pick up on that.”

Changes in how parents treat themselves can have a tremendous impact in combating the messages children receive over social media.

“The things that come out of their mouth, how they talk, how they act, working on their own mindset, is going to be the best way for their kids to mirror their behavior,” Carabase said.

Dobson said children as young as 7 years old are being diagnosed with eating disorders. She recommended limiting exposure to social media at an early age.

For more information on treatment for eating disorders, check out the following:

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