The quest for six-pack abs and a ripped physique may be leading some teens -- especially boys -- in an unhealthy direction, a new study suggests.
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Nearly 2,800 middle school and high school students answered questions about what they did to build muscle size or tone. Exercise was, far and away, the most common thing boys and girls reported doing.
However, some teens reported a risky behavior: Almost 6% of boys and 4.6% of girls said they had used steroids.
Media images of muscle-bound, "ripped" guys may be giving teen boys unrealistic ideas about how their bodies should look, in the same way ultra-thin fashion models do for teen girls, says researcher Marla Eisenberg, ScD, MPH, of the University of Minnesota.
"If you look back to the '70s or even the '80s it was pretty unusual to see a man without a shirt on in an ad or on TV," she says. "Now they are everywhere and they all emphasize the muscular look."
Eisenberg recommends that pediatricians and other health professionals ask their teen patients about what they're doing to build muscle to check if their strategies are healthy or not.
"Of course, exercise is a good thing," she says. "But when the emphasis shifts away from health and toward getting a particular look or body type, this might point to body image concerns."
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SOURCE: WebMD Health News