06 August 2003

Your body - teens

Right now there’s more hormonal activity in your bloodstream than in the front row of a Christina Aguilera concert.


Right now there’s more hormonal activity in your bloodstream than in the front row of a Christina Aguilera concert. In a few years you go from child to adult, your torso and limbs lengthening. With luck, any prepubescent chubby bits will get burned off by the energy with which you attack your life now.

It’s not without its problems. Many teens feel awkward and uncoordinated. Acne can be mortifying. It’s often scant comfort to know that most teens suffer exactly the same problems as you.

Still, you’ll look back on your teen years with nostalgia, hopefully not just because this was when you grew pubic hair.

What should you be doing? Your days are probably packed with activity, school or studying, sport and a burgeoning social life. You might be tempted to do as much as you possibly can with every spare moment, but don’t neglect your sleep. Some teens are notorious for eating and sleeping a lot, but there’s good reason: your body needs the rest as it goes through some fairly serious changes.

This is also the perfect time to develop habits that’ll stand you in good stead for the rest of your life. Many of your peers will be experimenting with drugs, tobacco and booze. Exhaustive research has proved that the first two are killers and the latter is only mildly beneficial, and that in moderation.

A great percentage of your classmates will spend their weekends off their collective face on Ecstasy, which is now being proved to carry enormous health risks. Don’t go there. Ever.

Speaking of habits to develop, you’ll now be able to choose your own food on a regular basis. It’s a time when many young blokes subsist on fast food. Try developing a taste for fresh food, greens and fruit. It’s a habit that’ll stand you in good stead. Go easy on the caffeine- and sugar-rich soft drinks too. One Red Bull occasionally won’t hurt, especially if you need to stay awake for the next 78 hours. If not, stick to the fruit juice. Too much caffeine is bad for the heart.

Many young blokes start weight training in their teens, which is great. It’s an excellent form of exercise. In your teens and 20s your body builds muscle more quickly than at any other time in your life. So do some weight training, but don’t overbuild. One word of warning: don’t even consider using steroids. Because your body is still growing, steroids can hamper the development of your bones. Steroids are never a good idea, but in your teens they carry more risk than at any other stage in your life.

Unless advised to do so by a dietician, stay away from massbuilders and other supplements sold in very large tins at pharmacies and consumed by very large men. If you’re seriously underweight, get medical advice first.

Sex? By now you may have noticed that women are interesting. Some may feel that way about you. Get to know them by being polite, listening as well as talking, being yourself while wearing modest amounts of deodorant. Also, keep telling yourself that thousands of your peers are infected with HIV each day. Make sure you aren’t one of them.


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