These fun fitness alternatives will help get teen girls active
Young children charge about the house causing chaos and treat the playground like their own personal assault course.
But as they get older that lust for physical activity can peter out, with many ending up glued to a screen, reluctant to move.
This is especially true of teenage girls. Sport England data reveals that more than half of girls aged 13 to 16 years old — 57% — are not meeting the guidelines of physical activity for their age.
In fact, 64% of girls quit sport altogether by the end of puberty, put at 16 to 17 years old. The data also shows that 69% of women who had negative experiences of PE at school have been put off taking part in sport or physical activity in general.
So it’s incredibly important we encourage our daughters to be active when they are young, if we want a love of sport and exercise to filter through as adults.
Samantha Allen says her 15-year-old daughter constantly plays truant to dodge PE and receives almost weekly detention for it. ‘She says she feels very self-conscious in the skirts and doesn’t actually enjoy any of the activities on the current curriculum, such as hockey, which she calls “medieval”,’ says Samantha.
‘She thinks PE should be optional, which I don’t agree with. But maybe if there was something she wanted to engage with, she would be more enthusiastic about participating.’
Because of these figures, Sport England — powered by This Girl Can, its campaign to promote sport among women — has launched a new digital resource called Studio You.
Instead of the more traditional PE concepts, it’s a video on-demand platform with fun and engaging classes ranging from yoga, Barre and Pilates to boxing and dance.
‘Studio You was designed to help girls develop a positive relationship with activity that lasts into adulthood by focusing on fun, not competition,’ explains Kate Dale, Sport England’s This Girl Can lead.
‘However, inspiration comes from many different places and parents also play an important role. So get them active by focusing on the fun elements of exercise, whilst praising improvements in confidence and fitness levels.’
Christina Brown founded the Motivational Mums Club, aiming to bring mothers together through networking. She says she’s not surprised by the Sport England figures.
‘A lot of girls are under peer pressure to look a certain way and social media plays a big part in that,’ she says.
‘Schools should play their part by not being too regimented with PE kit and parents should be encouraging their daughters to move, even if it’s just going for a walk or swimming with friends.
‘If budget allows, home fitness activities are helpful, so invest in trampolines, bikes and scooters — and there’s always the option to ask your children to join in your own home workout. At an age when they don’t really want to engage with you, a home workout together can strengthen your bond and spark up conversation.’
Katherine Busby is one mum who’s happy to see new developments where physical activity is concerned. She hated sports growing up and this has impacted on her as an adult.
But despite her loathing of anything fitness-related she’s passionate about helping her daughter, aged six, to enjoy being active. ‘I always remember being “that girl who couldn’t do a forward roll” and now I panic at corporate sports events and hen parties with team games,’ she says.
‘I don’t want that for my daughter and as I’m not naturally active I have come up with fun ways for us to move.
‘She loves helping out with the cleaning — and if MyFitnessPal is right, cleaning is a great exercise. And we have dance-offs where we choose different music and just go for it.
‘We love taking photos on a walk and sending them to Grandma, and also taking our dog out.
‘We have “borrowed” dogs in the past — it’s surprising how keen a child is to go for a walk when there’s a cute sidekick.’
Try these fun activities
The importance of getting children moving shouldn’t be underestimated and Penny Weston, a fitness and nutrition expert says there’s a huge number of benefits to youngsters being active.
‘These include the release of endorphins, the body’s natural happy drugs, and these can positively impact mood,’ she says.
‘Staying active is also key to reducing the risk of major illnesses, boosting self-esteem, improving sleep quality and reducing the likelihood of stress and depression.
‘It’s also beneficial in terms of their concentration, balance, social skills and helping children to develop strong bones.’ Penny suggests these free and easy physical activities to try at home.
Scavenger or treasure hunt
‘Children of all ages love hunting, whether it’s for their favourite Lego figures scattered around the garden, or reading and following clues. The excitement of searching and finding will make it easy to forget they’re exercising, and you’ll be amazed at how many steps they’ll rack up in the process.’
‘It’s simple but it never fails to get children interested — especially if there’s a prize for the winner. You can mix it up by making it take more of a triathlon format so that they can do part of it on foot, bike, or even a scooter. Use your phone to time them and they’ll be keen to beat their PB, too.’
‘Get your child’s input setting up the circuit,’ says Penny. ‘Their shared ownership will make them more likely to join in. It can be an adult circuit, whereby you do a minute on each station, but using things that are more child-centric such as hula hoops, balancing on logs, kicking a ball, jumping over a rope and so on.’
‘The popularity of Ninja Warrior-style obstacle courses popping up all over the country mean that kids of all ages will be keen to do one at home,’ says Penny.
‘Making your own obstacle course doesn’t have to be expensive though. You can pull it together in the garden using garden toys, old blankets, and anything else you’ve got handy.’
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