Physical activity benefits all of us and in a multitude of ways – physically, mentally, and more. But all-too often, teen girls miss out on the active play, exercise and sport participation that would enhance their health, boost their confidence, increase their self-esteem, and enables them to cope with stress. The same can be said of course for boys and for all of us, but as the mother of two teenage girls, this is an issue close to my heart.
Sport participation offers girls in particular, benefits beyond the more obvious ones – and yet during adolescence, the majority of girls who play and enjoy sports, will give them up. Let’s encourage and help our girls to stay in the game for the reasons you already know, and for these important ones too:
- Improved ability to deal with pressure. Through sport participation, girls learn to win and lose, acquire resilience and coping skills, learn to accept and appreciate their bodies, and meet others who share their interests. My youngest daughter for example, enjoys hanging out with her school friends, but also appreciates the more “sporty” friends she’s met through soccer, volleyball, tennis, and basketball.
- Better academic performance. Research indicates that girls who play sports do better in school. Exercise is proven to improve learning, memory function, and concentration, all of which can enhance learning.
- Sports teach teamwork. Being part of a team teaches girls to work with and respect others – fellow players, coaches, referees, and opposing team players. They also develop an increased ability to problem-solve… an important skill we all use throughout life.
- Healthy lifestyles! Physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle can reduce a girl’s risk factor for some diseases, breast cancer included. In addition, active girls often discover just how beneficial physical activity and sport participation can be in managing stress, worry, or depression. My eldest daughter, a runner, often increases her activity during exams or periods of stress… she’s a believer!
- Self-confidence. Girls who play sports learn to appreciate their bodies regardless of size; feel physically, mentally and emotional stronger; enjoy being in shape; often make friends with greater ease; and usually embrace other healthy lifestyle habits – such as not smoking, staying away from drugs and alcohol, choosing to eat well; and getting enough sleep. These habits, developed and encouraged in childhood and youth, will often become healthy ones for life.
Let’s keep our girls in the game!