Inactivity Among Adolescent Girls In The UK Is Worsening

Gender-specific barriers are stopping girls from getting active.

The latest: A new survey from the Youth Sport Trust reveals the gap between boys and girls in England who enjoy PE lessons is widening, with periods and low confidence cited as top reasons for girls not wanting to participate.

Of note, only 59% of secondary school-aged girls said they liked PE (or liked it a lot), compared to 74% in 2016. In contrast, 84% of boys claimed to enjoy PE, unchanged over the same period.

Why it matters: Globally, 85% of girls aren’t moving enough. An alarming trend, inactivity among teens (especially girls) is contributing to poor mental health, rising obesity rates and spiralling healthcare costs.

A win-win, physical activity not only helps prevent diseases like cancer, diabetes and depression, it also benefits cognitive development, academic achievement and overall well-being. But despite the benefits, traditional industries have been slow to keep girls in the game.

Changing the Game

Plotting a new course, the UK government recently pledged £600M to create more school-based sports opportunities for girls. Elsewhere, others are attempting to close the enjoyment gap.

  • A partnership between PUMA and global women’s fund Women Win aims to increase visibility of female athletes and support initiatives that increase girls’ access to sports.
  • The Football Association’s Let Girls Play campaign aims to give girls equal access to football sessions in school, as well as change outdated perceptions around the sport.
  • Oner Active is educating school-age girls on the importance of activity while donating activewear to boost confidence during exercise.

Getting millions moving, Nike and Spotify’s Make Moves Fund gives grants to UK-based community initiatives combining music and dance, while a separate collaboration with Dove delivers body confidence coaching to girls to encourage sports participation.

Takeaway: Helping girls establish a positive relationship with sport and fitness early on is a step in the right direction. But beyond the school system, the UK’s 2.4M-person gender gap for those finding physical activity enjoyable demands a collaborative approach.

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