A former All Ireland hurling star and HSE drug education officer has warned about a growing addiction with gym and exercise focused solely on developing the “perfect body”.
Tipperary hurler John Leahy (52), who now works as a drug education officer based in Clonmel, said that while health and fitness was to be encouraged as part of a good, healthy lifestyle, there was mounting concern that many young people across Ireland were becoming addicted to gym and exercise routines solely to develop a body that mirrors physiques seen in magazines and on TV.
Such an obsession with developing or sculpting what they view as 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” can become harmful to a person's general health - including the use of supplements which can radically alter body shape.
Mr Leahy - who won three All-Ireland hurling crowns with Tipperary after becoming the first Mullinahone player to make the senior Premier County team - warned that balance was essential when it came to health, lifestyle and fitness regimes.
The hurler warned this was increasingly important given the image pressures being exerted across modern life and, in particular, via TV and social media.
“People now are wanting to get this body image. They want to get the big muscles, to get 'the guns', they want to have the 'ripped' stomachs," he told TippFM.
“There is an addiction to that in the point of view that it’s becoming obsessive. You know, where do you stop?"
He said young people were being misled into believing that such hyper-developed bodies as seen on TV or in magazines were the norm.
"And I often say this to people you know, with training, with sport. They’ll often say: ‘Oh teams are not fit.’ And I’ll say: ‘Measure fitness - measure where do we stop at this?
"You see it with young people now. They’re pushing their bodies, their boundaries, their physicality.
"They’re getting addicted to that and getting obsessed with that. It would concern me if I had a young lad or saw someone in the gym or training the whole time.
“Something that is really important is balance in life.”
He said health and fitness were wonderful things to encourage in young people. Getting active in local sports and sports clubs was also something very positive.
But he said it was essential a sense of balance be encouraged at all stages so that the benefits aren't overshadowed by obsessive and compulsive training.