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Fighting teen anxiety with activity

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No Instagram likes + more physical activity = a winning combo for our kids. Hale Gym’s new Junior Method aims to teach teens good fitness habits for life.

As a coach of kids’ fitness classes, trainer Jessica Barnes of Barton’s Hale Gym knows all about youth body positivity and anxiety issues.

“I see so many kids, both girls and boys, worrying about how they look and being anxious in social settings,” says Jess.

“Friends, television and social media all have an impact on how they perceive themselves. I hear stories of them not getting enough likes on Instagram, and if the likes aren’t over a certain amount they will take the photo down.”

“Kids worry too much about how they are viewed by others, which is completely natural, as I did the same when I was young. But I do think this is heightened with platforms like Instagram in their grasp,” explains Jess.

Photography: Ashley St George

Jess says she knows at least one effective way to help improve the mental health of young adults—physical exercise.

“Instagram removing the likes count from photos is such a positive step forward. Now I want to see kids get off their phones altogether and invest more time in getting active,” says Jess.

“Not only is this going to help combat countless health risks, but it’s also going to show them the amazing things their body is capable of and how strong they can be. Couple this confidence with all of the endorphins that get released during exercise and hopefully they will start to love and appreciate who they are, no matter how they look or how many “likes” they get.”

Jess has witnessed the immense benefit physical exercise has had on the confidence and mental health of her 16-year-old niece and 14-year-old nephew, having trained them for the past year.

She then opened-up the training sessions to their friends and the kids of Jess’ adult clients, and after seeing more positive results, she and Hale Gym trainer Pete Sutton decided to create the Junior Method—a program for 12 to 17-year-olds aimed at setting good fitness habits for life.

Based on Hale’s popular 12-week Method for adults, the Junior Method uses the concept of General Physical Preparedness—which kick-starts physical conditioning to improve strength, speed, endurance, flexibility, and skill—to achieve significant gains in fitness, without injury or burnout.

“The Junior Method is a no phone, safe space, where kids can focus on training, improving themselves and not worrying about what others think,” says Jess.

“It’s a non-competitive environment where training is tailored to individual levels and our main focus is fun!”

“One of the biggest challenges in coaching kids is getting them used to being a little uncomfortable and having a bit of grit and determination. If things start to get hard or they get tired throughout the sessions, I want them to learn it’s not about giving up or putting the weights down, it’s about digging deep and working hard to achieve the outcome you desire,” says Jess.

“Hopefully these lessons—along with healthy exercise and eating habits—will go on to help them throughout their life.”

The Junior Method is an eight-week program—you can find out more about it at The next round begins next Tuesday 15 October, with 45-minute classes every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:15 pm at Hale Gym. Cost per class is $20 per session. To book, please email or call 02 6188 3299

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