GoGirlGo! Tips to Get a Girl Active
You've heard many of the reasons girls should be active. We know that if a girl does not participate in sports by the age of 10, there is only a 10% likelihood she will be participating at age 25. (Bunker, 1988). Research suggests that physical activity is an effective tool for reducing the symptoms of stress and depression among girls. Sports help girls develop leadership and teamwork skills. Girls who participate in sports have higher self-esteem and pride in themselves.
So how do you get the girls in your life to get on the path to being physically active and reaping all of these rewards? These tips will give you all the information you need to introduce physical activity to a girl and make a critical difference in her life.
I. What It Means to be Physically Active
II. Change Attitudes about Physical Activity
III. Keep It Fun!
IV. Buddy Up: The Importance of Teamwork
V. Stick With It: Reinforcing Participation and Interest
VI. Interested in Learning More?
Physical activity is anything that moves your body and gets your heart pumping. Working out on a regular basis (at least three days a week) will make you strong, increase energy and flexibility and turn you into a physically active person. You don't have to run a marathon or swim the English Channel to be considered active. Whether you engage in light activity like throwing a Frisbee or more vigorous activity like running, you are still engaging your body in movement, and that's what matters.
It's important to also emphasize that being a physically active person means a lot more than the numbers on the scale. Here are some of the other benefits of being active:
- Strength is good for all sports as well as life. Getting stronger means your muscles are more capable of kicking a soccer ball far, lifting and carrying more or jumping higher.
- Stamina means more energy. You can keep going; you can run further, climb more stairs, keep working and playing longer—without feeling winded.
- Flexibility feels more graceful. You feel more elastic, have more bounce in your walk and are able to touch your toes or reach a high shelf.
- Improved self-esteem This is probably one of the most important benefits for girls. When girls work out, they start to appreciate and respect their bodies for the awesome movement it's capable of. This in turn will help them to have higher self-esteem than girls who aren't physically active.
Techniques for introducing physical fitness to a girl will depend on what stage of life she's in. Here are some tips for different age groups:
Elementary School – ages 5 through 12
- Every day, if possible, build to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity.
- Allow for short periods of rest and recovery.
- Make those 60 minutes of activity feel effortless. If it feels like a chore or a scheduled nuisance, kids won't be excited to participate. Examples of fun kids’ activities include what you would consider "party games," like potato sack races or Red Rover, where kids run from one side to the other and break a chain of people.
- Vary the activities. Getting girls this age active is all about fun energy release. Trying more things means finding more activities to like!
Teens – ages 13-18
- Every day, if possible, build to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity; and, when it gets easier, add at least three days per week vigorous sessions of 20 minutes or more. (Sallis and Patrick, 1994)
What do we mean by moderate or vigorous activity? Here’s a quick guide:
- Light Activity. Playing catch, throwing a Frisbee, walking slowly, dancing slowly, horseshoes, ping pong and fishing
- Moderate Activity. Walking briskly, hiking, leisurely inline skating, bicycling on level terrain, trampoline jumping, weight-training with free weights, dancing, doubles tennis, shooting baskets, recreational swimming, canoeing, skateboarding, surfing, snorkeling, t-ball, horseback riding, volleyball and playground activities
- Vigorous Activity. Running, energetic aerobics or dancing, swimming continuous laps, bicycling uphill, climbing stairs, jump rope, jumping jacks, fast-paced inline skating, ice hockey, intensely training for competitive sports
Beginners, regardless of age, should start easy and build to regular, moderate activity. Regular means just about every day. Moderate exercise is when you are active enough to increase your heart rate and breathing for an hour. You should be able to talk to someone, but you shouldn’t be able to sing. With more skills and training, regular moderate and vigorous activities should be part of your routine.
Reprinted with the permission of the Women's Sports Foundation. © 2008 All Rights Reserved.
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