See the full section on supporting balanced health in the Balanced Female Health handbook or read a summary of key points below.
What does imbalanced health look like?
A young person with imbalanced health:
- has prolonged tiredness and fatigue
- often gets inadequate sleep (less than 8 hours)
- may have irritability or mood changes
- has an irregular or absent menstrual cycle
- has recurring injuries or illness
- doesn’t make time for physical activity, hobbies or social connection
Who is at risk of imbalanced health?
Young people at risk of imbalanced health are often individuals who:
- are involved in early specialisation - usually in one sport. There is greater risk in activities with an aesthetic or weight restricted focus e.g., gymnastics, ballet.
- participate in multiple sports and activities, with over-scheduling of commitments.
- have multiple life stressors e.g., physical activity demands, family stress, academic pressure, relationship conflict.
- exhibit perfectionist tendencies. They tend to be high achievers in multiple areas of life.
- move to higher level programs or training groups. The number of hours and intensity often increase.
- have previous injuries (especially bone stress injury) and recurrent illnesses e.g., coughs and colds.
- have engaged in disordered eating practices such as restricted eating, avoiding food groups, reward eating.
- demonstrate disordered training practices e.g., over-training, skipping rest days or signs of exercise addiction.
How to assess balanced health
As coaches, instructors, or parents you can ask these questions to assess overall balance and better understand a young person’s health and wellbeing.
- Are they enjoying participating in their sport or physical activity?
- Are they motivated to attend and / or compete?
- Is their activity balanced and are all elements covered? i.e., strength, core, fitness, fun.
- How are they eating to support their physical activity?
- Do they avoid meals or specific food groups?
- Do they have energy throughout training and games?
- Can they recover between activities?
- Are they experiencing regular menstrual cycles?
- Are they taking a hormonal contraception which may mask issues of the menstrual cycle?
- Are they getting 8+ hours of sleep per night?
- Do they feel fatigued or not recovered?
- Do they have at least one rest day per week?
- Do they have a good support network?
- Do they have a trusted adult who they can talk to if needed?
- Are they connecting with friends and social groups?
- Are they feeling any pressures around participating in sport or other physical activitiese.g., body image, playing with friends, loss of fun?
Injury / Illness
- Have they been regularly injured or unwell?
- Is there a history of bone injury e.g., shin splints, stress reaction or stress fracture?
- Do they have a prolonged injury affecting participation and / or wellbeing?
- Are they engaging in social activities and down time away from sport or physical activity?
- Do they come back motivated and engaged?