Encouraging girls to develop a love for physical activity

Benefits, barriers and tips to change behaviour by Dr Eileen Africa

Panel of experts edited stills03Physical activity is a crucial part of holistic wellbeing. An extensive body of research (Cowley et al., 2021) shows that girls are generally less active than boys of the same age (Borhani et al., 2017). We need to encourage girls to be physically active and remain active as they grow up because active girls become healthy, active women. It is important to instil habits in girls that will help keep them healthy for a lifetime. This could have far-reaching positive effects on their overall health and wellbeing. Some of the benefits of physical activity include:

- Maintaining a healthy weight and improvement in overall fitness
- Reduced anxiety and stress
- Increased self-confidence
- Socialisation with peers
- Better use of free time
- Quality sleep

The World Health Organisation recommends that children do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day, however this is made more difficult by numerous barriers which include:

- Sedentary and screen-focused lifestyles
- Lack of basic fundamental movement skills
- Lack of self-confidence for exercise
- Behaviour of inactive parents
- Social and family support
- Lack of safe places
- High amount of homework

It is extremely important for their long-term health that we remain alert about keeping girls active on a daily basis and foster a sense of adventure and excitement when it comes to physical activity.

Tips on how to change behaviour to encourage girls to become more physically active:

- Communication: You need to understand why they avoid physical activity so that you can create a solution together.

- You are a powerful role model: You need to be physically active yourself, walk the talk and praise their efforts.

- Keep electronic temptations to a minimum.

- Show that physical activity can be fun: Do different things together, such as dancing, running on the beach, walking the dog (This encourages responsibility for their pets as well).

- Provide opportunities and keep activities uncomplicated: Emphasise that physical activity does not need to be a structured activity. Build it into a regular daily routine.

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References:

BORHANI, M.; SADEGHI, R.; SHOJAEIZADEH, D.; HARANDI, T. & VAKILI, M. (2017). Teenage girls’ experience of the determinants of physical activity promotion: A theory-based qualitative content analysis. Electronic Physician (ISSN: 2008-5842). August 2017, Volume: 9, Issue: 8, Pages: 5075-5082, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.19082/5075. COWLEY, E.S.; WATSON, P.M.; FOWEATHER, L.; BELTON, S.; THOMPSON, A.; THIJSSEN, D.; WAGENMAKERS, A.J.M. (2021). “Girls Aren’t Meant to Exercise”: Perceived Influences on Physical Activity among Adolescent Girls—The HERizon Project. Children 2021, 8, 31. https://doi.org/10.3390/ children8010031.

Published on August 13, 2021