We know Canadian adolescents are not active enough, with only 31% meeting Canada’s 24 Hour Movement Guidelines of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. But according to the Canadian Health Measures Survey (2016/17), adolescent girls are half as likely to meet this activity recommendation than adolescent boys. Why does this gender difference begin to occur in adolescence? Why does activity also drop off in motherhood? Why do low activity levels in girls track from adolescence into adulthood? Physical activity research is looking into exactly these issues and developing some approaches to tackle the problem.
One way to combat lower levels of activity among girls and women is with interventions that focus on self-efficacy or the belief in one’s capabilities. Helping girls build mastery experiences that give them confidence in their ability to be active can increase their self-efficacy and intention or motivation to be active.
Self-efficacy in physical activity is improved in girls when they get to choose the type and intensity of exercise. Interventions using gender-separate, girl-focused activities like dance, aerobics, martial arts and focusing on building enjoyment as well as confidence shows more success than traditional physical education or competitive sports.
Perceptions of their home setting have an effect on adolescent girls’ confidence in their ability to be active so it’s important to create a movement-rich environment where girls live, with equipment like bicycles, balls, badminton, parks in the neighbourhood or even some exergames like Just Dance for a rainy day.
Peer and parental support also play a key role in fostering adolescent girls’ self-efficacy or confidence, not only to overcome barriers like being tired or competing priorities like homework but also from reassurance of worth or someone believing YOU CAN DO IT!
Sunday, March 8th, 2020 is International Women’s Day when we focus on celebrating women’s achievements and take action for equality. https://www.internationalwomensday.com/ Let’s ensure we have equal levels of girls and boys meeting the activity guidelines for optimal health now and for their whole lives.