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Girls 'less engaged by physical activity than boys'

08/11/2017 Kelly

Schools need to be doing more to encourage their female students to take part in physical activity, according to a new study.

Analysis by Women in Sport and the Youth Sport Trust has highlighted a substantial gender divide in attitudes towards physical activity among the 25,000 secondary-school aged children surveyed from 138 schools across England and Northern Ireland.

It was revealed that 71 per cent of boys aged 11 to 16 are happy with the amount of physical activity they take part in, compared with only 56 per cent of girls. Moreover, only 45 per cent of girls said they understood the relevance of skills they learn in PE to the rest of their lives, compared to 60 per cent of boys.

When examining the reasons why this might be the case, it was shown that the pressure of school work and low confidence were cited as barriers to taking part in physical activity for 24 per cent of girls, compared to 13 per cent of boys. Painful periods and a lack of encouragement from teachers and parents were also highlighted as contributory trends.

It was also revealed that satisfaction with body image for girls declines with age, with one in four being unhappy with their body image at 11 to 13 years, rising to one in three by the time they reach 14 to 16 years of age.

Ruth Holdaway, chief executive of Women in Sport, said: "Girls are missing out: missing out on the physical health and emotional wellbeing benefits of being active, and missing out on the life skills that sport helps to develop.

"We know that the gender gap in sports participation starts young and is perpetuated throughout childhood, thanks to a lack of understanding of the difference between girls' and boys' attitudes towards being active."

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