Parents focus on the needs of their children on many fronts – giving hugs and kisses, setting limits, helping with homework and hobbies, planning meals, and emphasizing healthy habits. An important component of a healthy lifestyle is regular physical activity.
The news is full of stories about the growing rates of obesity, physical inactivity, diabetes and high cholesterol in our children. Now more than ever, we need to encourage regular physical activity in our children. Being a member of a sports team is a great way for them to become physically active and learn important lessons about team play, sportsmanship and discipline. While participation in sports has long been a staple for growing boys, it is only during the last decade or two that girls have begun to routinely participate in organized athletic events.
A number of studies have been published that describe the benefits for girls when they participate in sports. Compared to females who are sedentary or non-athletes, teenage female athletes:
- are less likely to become sexually active or get pregnant,
- feel greater confidence, self-esteem and pride in their physical and social selves,
- are less likely to initiate cigarette smoking,
- are more likely to experience academic success and graduate from high school,
- experience higher than average levels of self-esteem and less depression
As parents, we should encourage our daughters to engage in regular sporting activities by putting to rest the misconceptions they may have. She may worry that if she plays sports she will be “unfeminine,” or will develop an eating disorder or will be unpopular with boys.We can also encourage their participation through our actions – when we give our daughters a tennis racquet as a birthday gift; when we take the family to a professional womens’ basketball; when we volunteer to coach our childrens’ sporting teams, or participate in sports ourselves.
When they are young, both boys and girls have a similar interest in sporting activities. Let’s all do our best to encourage both to get active and stay active!
Health and happiness, Kriss