Top Tips: Getting Teenage Girls Active

by Jadwiga O'Brien on June 30, 2011

Physical activity girls

It’s extremely important for girls to be physically active - according to the World Health Organisation, being physically inactive is responsible for up to 25% of cases of breast and colon cancer, 27% of diabetes and 30% of heart disease

Being active is really important for all children and young people, but it is a big issue for girls in particular. Girls are far less active than boys, but the real shocker is the drop in physical activity levels once girls reach their teens.  One study reported that between the ages of 11 and 15, the physical activity level of girls fell by a staggering 25%!

There are many reasons why girls become less active as they grow older – but if we understand the issues, we can help our girls and young women to stay active.

Teenage Blues

Being a teenager is tough. Your body is going through changes that aren’t necessarily pretty or comfortable. Body hair, periods, growth spurts and general emotional distress all gang up together to make life a misery. Imagine dealing with those changes and then having to change into PE gear in front of all your classmates. Or even worse – go swimming. No chance.

In addition, society often supports the idea that sports aren’t for girls. Girls are meant to wear nice clothes and have perfect hair and make-up. If they’re taking an hour to get ready in the morning, can you really expect them to undo all their hard work in one sweaty PE session?

What to Say

  • Ask girls what activities they want to take part in, and what they’re comfortable with – not all girls (or women!) enjoy sport, and there are lots of other ways for girls to be active, like dance, yoga and aerobics
  • Explain the importance of keeping fit
  • Make sure to talk about awkward issues like periods and body hair – if your children are self-conscious, you need to find out why and offer them support
  • If necessary, girls may need extra time after PE sessions – and this is something that all schools need to be aware of

Dislike of Competition

Many girls who are physically active do it for fun – unlike boys, who typically enjoy the competitive element of sports. Because of this, it is often recommended that girls and boys should be split into separate groups when being physically active. If the boys are out playing doing sports such as soccer, the girls could stay in and do some dance classes or yoga.

Girls Working Together

In an ideal world, girls and boys would take part in physical activity together, but it would appear that, for now at least, many girls are more comfortable keeping fit amongst their own sex. You only need to look at the popularity of women only gyms for proof! Try signing up your daughter and one of her friends for a girls-only aerobics class. They’ll be getting great exercise and they might end up making some new friends.


Support can be a hugely beneficial factor when it comes to being physically active.  If we want our girls and young women to stay fit and healthy, we need to be sure that we’re there to encourage them.

Sporty Stereotypes

Remember that some girls love taking part in traditional sports, and should be encouraged and supported to do so! Make sure you’re not guilty of sport stereotyping – sport and competition are deeply set within the “male domain”, but girls can play too! We should help and encourage girls to be active, regardless of the activity that they are interested in.

Lack of Skill

Some of us are lacking in the skills which others have been graced with. If your daughter doesn’t like dancing because she has two left feet, she’s not going to enjoy it. Try out different activities and see what suits them best. Physical activity can be great fun once you find the right one for you!

Women of the Future

Women all over the world are suffering from the diseases that have been brought on by unhealthy lifestyles. Breast cancer, heart disease, obesity and osteoporosis cause unnecessary suffering in the lives of thousands of mothers, daughters, sisters and grandmothers. Simply by becoming more active, you can reduce the risk for these diseases. Regular physical activity can be a powerful way of protecting you and yours from serious illness later in life.

How do you encourage your daughter to remain physically active? Are there any activities that are particularly popular with your daughter and her friends? Why not share your ideas in the comments box below.

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