Shocking numbers published this week by Women in Sport and Sport England, reveal that only 10 ten per cent of girls aged 13-16 are meeting the recommended daily guidelines of 60 minutes of physical activity each day. The remaining 90 per cent are missing out on the health benefits of regular exercise of any kind.
The report, Reframing Sport for Teenage Girls, also identified a big gap between knowledge and behaviour, with 78 per cent of 14-16-year-old girls understanding the importance of an active lifestyle, but only 28 per cent actually enjoy taking part.
When it comes to health, a significant number – 44 per cent – are overweight or obese. In addition, at least a third are unhappy with their body image, and 70 per cent of this group say they will resort to unhealthy behaviours to control this.
The report also found evidence of deteriorating mental health, reduced levels of happiness and increased levels of stress.
So what can the fitness industry do to contribute solutions to this emerging crisis in the lives of girls and young women?
Things like the boom in boutiques show our industry is able to re-engage with young women as they reach adulthood, with the growth in this sector being clearly linked to female participation. The Global Boutique Trends Report 2018 found women made up 83 per cent of classes booked in London, for example, but this still represents a small percentage of the population.
There’s a significant time gap between the point where girls disengage from exercise in their early- to mid-teens and the stage where some young women recommit by joining a gym or booking classes at a boutique. It’s here we need to focus our efforts.
Reframing Sport for Teenage Girls is a robust piece of work which makes a series of excellent suggestions in the form of ‘eight principles of success’. These highlight ways in which we can help girls to reframe this whole area of their lives and get them into good physical activity habits for life.
These include creating relatable role models who inspire girls, giving them purpose and value and invoking excitement, to bring a sense of adventure and discovery. The report also recommends giving girls the freedom to play.
It’s time the industry reviewed its approach to the whole opportunity for children and young people to use facilities and started to reach out and develop relationships with kids at a much younger age, either on-site, or via community outreach projects which use school or neighbourbood facilities.
Most gyms won’t accept memberships from kids until they reach the age of 16 and this ‘gap’ is a huge missed opportunity for everyone involved – kids, parents and operators.
We have the knowledge to do this and with the industry focusing on how to attract millennials, Gen Z and Gen Alpha, now’s the time to adopt a new strategy to engage with children at a time when we can help them through these challenging years.
Read the report at HCMmag.com/reframingsport