Last month saw ‘Women in Sport week’ and with Johanna Konta and Heather Watson (so far!) doing well up the road at Wimbledon, there’s a lot of talk about how to get more women involved in all sports.
It’s a problem not just here in Britain – with international research finding that girls participate in less physical activity than their male counterparts. Fewer girls take place in organised sport and the majority don’t meet the guidelines for recommended daily activity.
So why do so many opt out?
Studies have shown that levels of physical activity decline from about age six, and then sharply after adolescence.
The reasons for this are varied, but include worried about body image, peer pressure, time constraints, lack of role models and difficulty finding somewhere convenient to take part or play.
Does it matter?
Well, yes! Exercise improves overall health, prevents early onset diabetes and can reduce the likelihood of heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers.
There are also mental health benefits – which can be particularly important during exam years when girls are most likely to opt out of sports. It has been shown that those who participate in sport can perform better academically and so it’s important that we do all we can to encourage girls to stick with the sports they enjoy.
There’s also the social aspect, with sports often helping to build self esteem and a sense of teamwork.
How can we encourage girls to be more active?
Active parents are a great first step, with studies showing that the father in particular can have a significant influence on activity levels.
With more women’s sport on TV and in the media, more role models are appearing and this can only be a positive thing – especially with the sports in turn attracting more spectators! Parents can also take children to watch live sporting events – and think local as well, this could be for a county netball team rather than £50 tickets for Premier League football!
Parents can also encourage their children to try the sports they enjoy – in fact we’d always encourage mums and dads to bring their children along to Pilates classes!
For more information take a look at the Sport England site – home of their excellent “This girl can” campaign.