Many girls lose interest in sports and physical activity after puberty. Their desire and motivation to be active comes up against a number of barriers. For one thing, the available activities generally aren’t tailored to the needs and interests of teenage girls. As a result, 9 out of 10 girls fail to meet Canadian exercise guidelines by the time they graduate high school1.
If a girl has a negative experience with physical activity, if she feels inadequate, judged or discriminated against, that can taint her attitude towards sports forever. Also, at this age girls’ bodies are changing and their relationships with boys are becoming more complex. Some girls will avoid sporting situations in which they have to move and perform in front of boys, especially if they don’t feel their skills will be displayed to best advantage.
In addition to these factors, there’s the fact that dropping out of sports is a bigger problem among girls than boys. The numbers speak for themselves.
Girls and physical activity: The Quebec statistics
In 2011, Kino-Québec’s scientific committee published an overview of physical activity for children entitled L’activité physique, le sport et les jeunes – Savoir et agir. It reported a wide discrepancy between boys and girls when it comes to physical activity2. Quebec studies published in 2015 found that two-thirds (65%) of boys aged 6 to 11 get enough exercise but only half (52%) of girls in the same age bracket do3. The gap persists throughout adolescence. Only one out of three (33%) of girls aged 12 to 17 is physically active, compared with one out of two (49%) of boys4.
Girls abandoning physical activity at puberty is not a trend that is unique to Quebec; it is observed in most industrialized countries5. But while Quebec boys aged 6 to 17 have a level of physical activity that is comparable to that of their counterparts in the rest of Canada, Quebec girls are less active than other Canadian girls6.
FitSpirit wants to reverse the trend
This situation, which had been observed for a number of years, prompted FitSpirit to offer Canadian girls activities tailored to their needs and interests in order to guide them towards a healthy and active lifestyle.
In partnership with the schools, FitSpirit organizes all-girl physical activities in which everyone feels safe and which everyone finds rewarding, regardless of their skill level. Guided by caring professionals with whom they develop trusting relationships, the girls have positive and fulfilling experiences with physical activity that will help keep them active for the rest of their lives.
Note: This article is largely based on an article published in Observatoire québécois du loisir.
1 Statistics Canada, Percentages meeting specific time recommendations of 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth, by sex and age group, household population aged 5 to 17, Canada, 2009-to-2011 and 2012-to-2013 combined. www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2017010/article/54875/tbl/tbl02-eng.htm
2 Comité scientifique de Kino-Québec (2011) L’activité physique, le sport et les jeunes – Savoir et agir. Secrétariat au loisir et au sport, Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport, Gouvernement du Québec. Coordinated by Gaston Godin, Ph.D., Suzanne Laberge, Ph.D., and François Trudeau, Ph.D., 104 p.
3 Nolin, B. Niveau d’activité physique de la population québécoise : pas d’amélioration depuis 2005, Bureau d’information et d’études en santé des populations, Institut national de santé publique du Québec, 2015.
4 Nolin, B. Niveau d’activité physique de la population québécoise : pas d’amélioration depuis 2005, Bureau d’information et d’études en santé des populations, Institut national de santé publique du Québec, 2015.
5 Cooper et al. Objectively measured physical activity and sedentary time in youth: the International children’s accelerometry database (ICAD). International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (2015) 12:113.
6 Nolin, B. Niveau d’activité physique de la population québécoise : pas d’amélioration depuis 2005, Bureau d’information et d’études en santé des populations, Institut national de santé publique du Québec, 2015.