While the physical changes brought on by puberty are perfectly normal and expected, they can make some girls give up sports. Anxieties about developing breasts are among the main factors that can cause girls to become less active.
To find out more, we took a look at a 2016 British study* of the impact of breasts on sports and physical activity, in which 2,000 girls aged 11 to 18 were surveyed. The findings shed some light on what goes on in the minds and bodies of teenage girls:
- 46% of girls said their breasts affected their participation in compulsory gym classes. Girls aged 13 and 14 and girls with larger breasts were the most likely to feel uncomfortable;
- 50% of girls never wear sports bras during physical activity and only 10% always do;
- 73% of respondents reported at least one area of concern about their breasts and physical activity. The two most common concerns were that their breasts would bounce (38%) and embarrassment changing in front of others (34%).
The study also had some good news:
- 87% of girls would like to know more about breasts in general;
- 44% of girls would like more information about bras and breasts as they relate to sports and physical activity.
To make sure girls have a positive experience with sports and physical activity after puberty, we need to be responsive to their concerns. We have to be there to give advice attuned to their comfort level and at their pace. The most important thing is to listen, if we are to help girls discover or rediscover the joys of being active.
* Scurr et al. Journal of Adolescent Health 58 (2016) pp. 167-173.