A unprecedented global survey of 14,000 women by researchers at St Mary’s University, Twickenham has shown that British and Irish school girls lose interest in sport when they hit puberty which can be attributed to body changes, low confidence, unflattering sports kit and a feeling that sport was “not cool” or fun.
The figures show two out of five of them shun sport during puberty often using sick notes citing their periods as the reason not to participate. One P.E. teacher described how often this occurred as “ridiculous”.
The falloff stats are far more severe than anywhere else in the world which can be linked to English and Irish attitudes towards the sometimes sensitive subject and shines a light on a dire need to de-stigmatise periods whilst motivating our young people to embrace active lifestyles given the obesity epidemic reportedly straining the NHS to the tune of 6 Billion a year.
One of the researchers and international cross country runner Dr Georgie Bruinvels has written account of her own experiences as a young runner dreading having her period on a race day. ( Scroll down to the case study here.) She explained she has used her own experiences as a motivator for the research and in her capacity as a co-creator of the FitrWomen App which helps women individualise their training regimes around their menstrual cycles.
“One side effect of that is the bleed but a whole other aspect of it is about what is going on with the body all the time. Athletes are suppressing their bodies by taking the birth control pill to stop this natural and normal process which we should be embracing.” Said Bruinvels
Mims Davies, the sports minister, said the findings highlighted the need for the Government to address participation levels among teenage girls. “This is further concerning evidence of the challenge we must address” They have previously rolled out the “This Girl Can” campaign which inspired 3.9 million women and girls to get active however it seems that young people are moving away from sport in droves during the transitional time in their adolescence.
“I am working with the sector to make sport and physical activity both enjoyable and engaging for young people of all abilities and backgrounds.
The survey also illustrated that women found exercise to offer great relief to the pain and other side effects of menstruation and according to Bruinvels women actually show increased ability to exercise when menstruating.
A Sports England survey showed that 2.3 million children do less than 30 minutes of activity each day. If you want to help young people to embrace movement and push back against the growing trend to abandon physical activity during puberty you can consider fostering a culture of movement with a standing desk trial in your school just fill out this 60 second form to get started.
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