Girls versus physical activity

Helping girls increase their physical activity level in high school.

Today’s youth seem to have less motivation when it comes to being physically active. Boys generally are more active in high school compared to girls. Some studies have shown a sharp decline in physical activity of as much as 64 percent among white girls and 100 percent among black girls between the ages of 9-18. With childhood obesity rates steadily climbing, this is of great concern to many parents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes, “Regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, reduces anxiety and stress, increases self-esteem and may improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels.”

Most schools have also gone to optional gym time; sometimes this is the only place where these girls would get some physical activity throughout the day. All youth should have the opportunity during school to learn how to be active as well as the benefits it has on their body as it relates to healthy living. Girls especially should be encouraged to be active, and we should intentionally spark conversations around body image issues to help curb the fear some girls have with being physically active.

Some quick tips to help get girls more interested in physical activity include:

  • Playing games that are not competitive.
  • Playing game that are all inclusive and don’t eliminate players out of the game.
  • Asking them for suggestions for games.
  • Encouraging them as they play games.
  • Playing age-appropriate games that girls find fun to play.

A comprehensive approach to overall health to encourage physical activity is good, but learning more about your audience, which in this case is girls, helps to provide them with tools to incorporate healthy living into their everyday lives.

Michigan State University Extension helps youth navigate through decisions that will help create a healthy lifestyle as they stay connected to 4-H programming and 4-H clubs.

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