Depressed in midlife? Try skateboarding, study suggests

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In a mid-life crisis? Skate through it.

A new study suggests that skateboarding can help down-and-out Gen Xers or even those battling substance abuse issues by boosting their moods.

New research has revealed that the pastime allows the middle-aged to cope with depression and stress, while also offering a potential common ground for parents to bond with their kids.

Sociological researcher Dr. Paul O’Connor, from the University of Exeter, said that the activity can invoke “spiritual meaning” for those who engage in the sport, by also providing a new avenue of self-expression — an endeavor that often takes a back seat as adults and parents.

He also believes that the nature of skateboarding, which celebrates failure (the falls) as part of growth, may help adults loosen up and enjoy the ride, as it were — and seems to do so better than other sports or exercise.

In some cases, O’Connor saw “grown men fighting back tears” as they spoke about it.

“Skateboarding provides a serious emotional outlet for people who have experienced personal trials in the collapse of long-term relationships, career challenges, parenthood and substance abuse,” O’Connor said in his report.

The research said that taking falls, as the saying goes, can help you fly.
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O’Connor studied middle-aged skateboarders in Hong Kong and the UK, interviewing 30 of them to understand what they get out of it. His findings, dubbed “Identity and Wellbeing in Older Skateboarders,” were published in the research text Lifestyle Sports and Identities.

“For those I spoke to, skateboarding was more than about looking after physical health,” said O’Connor. “Indeed, the notion of sport was regarded with caution. To them, skateboarding seemed to mean more.”

For many of the borders, their own children had sparked or rekindled interest in the hobby — which rose to popularity in the 1970s and since recently has become an official sport of the Olympics.

“On at least two occasions when I asked informants to try to explain what skateboarding meant to them, I was confronted with grown men fighting back tears, literally lost for words in grasping to communicate the importance and gravitas of their pastime,” he said.

But some of a certain age might be wary of the hobby since skateboard-related injuries “account for an estimated 50,000 emergency department visits and 1,500 hospitalizations” each year in the US, Dr. Rima Himelstein told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In fact, first-time skaters make up one-third of those who visit the ER, according to UPMC Sports Medicine, with common ailments including concussions as well as shoulder, wrist and ankle injuries. Even pro skater Tony Hawk said he’s taken a step back from some moves after wipeouts have taken a toll on his body.

“[My] willingness to slam unexpectedly into the flat bottom has waned greatly over the last decade,” the 53-year-old explained.

While Dr. Himelstein said injuries can be avoided by wearing safety gear, such as helmets and knee pads, she cautions against the “dangerous” activity.

“My motherly advice: Don’t do it.”

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