Helping Teens Struggling With Loneliness and Sedentary Behavior

While there’s a difference between loneliness and spending time alone, loneliness is associated with participating in fewer meaningful activities with other people. It’s possible for people to find meaning in solitary activities, like creative expression or work, but most of these activities are available from the comfort of one’s own home. A recent study suggests that while older adults are more likely to discuss the loneliness they feel, teens report a similar level of loneliness. Loneliness is associated with poor physical health and an increased risk of mental health problems, which both reinforce social withdrawal and sedentary behavior. This study investigates the role of physical activity in reducing loneliness either directly or indirectly by improving physical and mental health.

Underlying mechanisms of loneliness:

  • Inability to connect with others on a deeper, more intimate level, even if they spend a lot of time with acquaintances or family members
  • Feeling disengaged in social situations and overwhelmed by big groups
  • Negative feelings of self-doubt 
  • General exhaustion
  • Problems sleeping or eating healthy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in activities, particularly physical, that they used to enjoy

Impact of Loneliness

According to the study, they found that loneliness and sedentary behavior were strongly correlated. Time spent inactive was limited to leisure time, not including sleeping. Although types of leisure-time sedentary activities were not listed, it can be assumed that technology plays a large role in these findings.

  • Teens who spent more than 3 hours a day engaged in “leisure time sedentary behavior were 29% more likely to experience loneliness. 
  • Spending more than 8 hours a day sedentary more than doubled rates of loneliness, with a 66% increase in loneliness. 
  • Girls were more likely than boys to report loneliness at lower levels of sedentary behavior.

Boosting energy and social connection

If loneliness is associated with sedentary behavior, the opposite would suggest that social connection is associated with physical activity, whether this means engaging in group physical activities or feeling more confident in relationships as a result of solo physical activity. 

Some ways physical activity may lead to improved self-esteem and stronger relationships may include:

  • Exercise empowers you to feel better and to feel better about yourself.
  • Physical activity is a fun, healthy way to connect with others over positive activities.
  • Physical activity encourages you to explore your physical and emotional strengths and limitations.
  • Getting out of your head and into your body ends up strengthening your cognitive functioning.
  • Adventure activities involve teamwork, leadership, and collaboration.

Trails Carolina Can Help

Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program that helps teens ages 10-17 who are struggling with behavioral and emotional issues. This program uses adventure-based therapy to help students gain a new sense of self-awareness, confidence, and independence. The skills they learn throughout the wilderness program offer long-term benefits towards their ability to successfully self-navigate in the real world. By removing teens from their fast-paced environment into a safe, nurturing, and peaceful environment, they are able to focus on improving and reflecting upon their behavior. Trails Carolina gives students the tools they need to lead happy and healthy lives. We can help your family today!

Contact us at 800-975-7303.

Avatar of Jeremy Whitworth

Jeremy Whitworth

As Executive Director at Trails Carolina, a leading wilderness therapy program for youth and teens, I oversee operations and collaborate with our leadership team. Since 2022, I've also hosted the Common Ground Podcast for parents: With a background in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education, I've managed adventure-based therapeutic programs across the US and Canada. My experiences in competitive athletics and adventure sports have honed my leadership, risk assessment, and decision-making skills, which I apply to running a successful business like Trails Carolina.

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Trails saved my daughter’s life. Amanda is an amazing human and a brilliant therapist. I am so grateful to her, Science Steve, and the other wonderful people who could reach my daughter at a time when I could not.

Margot Lowman August 2022

Great life changing experience for our son. After becoming addicted to gaming during covid he was very depressed. At Trails he experienced the wilderness, Science Steve, learning survival skills and top notch therapy and support etc… I highly recommend! This gave our son and our family a renewed family bond full of love and excitement about his bright future.

Winnifred Wilson July 2022


Outstanding clinical work and superb staff! There’s a great culture at this company and it shows with how they engage with families/clients.

Kristin Brace June 2022


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