Schools need to be more "imaginative" in their provision of sporting activities if they are to encourage girls to participate in physical education (PE) lessons.
This is one of the recommendations made by the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which has published a report that concludes women are being deterred from taking part in sport.
In addition, more needs to be done to support those delivering PE lessons to ensure they are able to provide a wide range of activities for youngsters.
The report identifies the increasing inactivity of children as a major cause for concern for the government and recommends that levels of physical activity be measured annually to help address the problem.
It states that an emphasis on competitive sport may only serve to make the situation worse, however.
"Schools need to be more imaginative in the type of sport that they provide for girls: while some enjoy team games like football and netball or athletics others would enjoy sampling a wider variety of activities, such as dance or cycling or non-traditional games for girls like rugby," the report says.
The Committee found there is a widespread perception that schools devote more attention and resources to boys when it comes to sport, and it says they should attempt to redress the balance. This could be done by amending schools' Public Sector Equality Duty.
Statistics show that there is a persistent gap in participation rates in sport between men and women. The latest data reveals around 40 per cent of men take part in sport once a week, compared with around 30 per cent of women.
Two different types of barriers were identified as acting as deterrents towards women. The first of these are practical or lifestyle barriers, such as family responsibilities; the second are personal or emotional barriers, such as the belief that muscular and sporty bodies are unfeminine.
The report also says that schools - both publicly-funded and those that claim charitable status - have a key role to play in ensuring sporting facilities are available for every community.
Posted by Tim Colman