Studies show that girls turn away from sports and fitness once they reach the teen years. So how do we keep our daughters as interested in keeping fit as our sons keep?
It’s important to teach our children that fitness is a lifestyle choice, and that keeping fit is a life-long endeavor. For boys this lesson isn’t as difficult, but studies show that girls are less likely to remain physically active once they reach adolescence. Judy Notay, an education fitness consultant, says girls lack of interest in fitness during the teen years is quite dramatic. “With girls and physical activity there definitely is a drop when they hit around twelve to thirteen. Studies show that there’s a real dramatic drop in team sports. Girls need to be in a social, team-driven, fun environment, and with girls only.”
We can help our daughters remain physically active by role modeling and by seeing that our schools provide fitness programs that reflect the interests of girls. Rick Bell, professor of Physical Education at the University of Victoria believes that girls are less active than boys are because it’s “a reflection of what’s happening in our schools. Girls are indicating that the curriculum is not reflecting what they want in types of activities, and the manner in which competition is a part of many activities is contrary to what many girls feel is important.”
Professor Bell says many schools are beginning to offer physical education programs for girls that grab their interest. “I know of many schools that have developed dance programs, modern, jazz, tap and social dance programs, and schools that have a prominent aerobic dance program and outdoor education programs. These are programs that typically get children very active in different settings and have been very popular in getting more and more young women involved in physical activity.”
If you’re looking for a fitness program for your daughter outside of the school setting here’s what to keep in mind says Notay. “When you’re looking for a program for your daughter make sure it’s girls only, that the activity will ensure success because it meets their skill level, and that the person running the program is very positive and understands girl’s needs. Also get a group of girls together to try something new. Then they feel safer than being on their own trying something new.”
Physical activity helps our children cope with stress, prevents disease and provides fun and socialization. While helping your daughter find the right fitness program can be a little daunting, there’s no doubt it’s worth the effort.
Photo via JosephGilbert.org