TEENAGE girls dropping out of sport and fitness is no new trend.
Spending their free time hanging around with friends rather than committing to regular training is all too tempting for some youngsters.
But this rapid drop-out rate has serious implications for the health of young women — who are at risk of becoming unfit, overweight and susceptible to unhealthy lifestyle habits at a young age.
Not only that, but they also miss out on the fun, satisfaction and confidence boost regular exercise brings.
Now, girls aged between 11 and 25 will have access to a new dynamic course of classes at martial arts centre in Breightmet, thanks to a successful bid for Lottery funding by kick-boxing instructor Paul Smith.
Mr Smith, who runs North West Warriors Martial Arts and Fitness Centre in Vale Street, is determined to keep girls interested in sport and exercise.
But at North West Warriors, it is not about giving youngsters an easy ride.
It is about combining the discipline of martial arts with accessible exercises for girls of all abilities and fitness levels.
Mr Smith said: “A lot of girls drop out of sport when they leave school, and that’s when get out of the habit of exercising.
“These new sessions incorporate fitness, martial arts and positive thinking.
“We’re hoping it will interest some girls because they might want to learn some self defence too. They’re at an age where they’re hanging around on the streets more with other people their age. It might make them feel safer knowing they can defend themselves.”
Youngsters staying indoors rather than playing outside can also make girls reluctant to do exercise, according to Paul. The dad-of-two said: “I think it’s fair to say there has been a decline in kids playing outdoors, or just out with their mates.
“I think a lot of that is down to X-boxes, tablets, mobile phones and social media.
“Kids don’t have to run to the next street to call for their mates. They can just message them.
“There’s also a safety element. Kids, especially girls, don’t want to be out and about as much.
“Parents are more aware of the risks of playing out on the streets. They prefer their children to hang around at home where it’s safe, where they won’t get approached by strangers or mugged.
“Obviously that has an impact on the amount of exercise they do.”
Danielle Smith, aged 17, kick-boxes at North West Warriors, and says many girls lack confidence when it comes to physical activity.
She also dropped out of sport herself when she was aged 16.
Danielle, from Breightmet, said: “I’d kick-boxed for years, but I stopped doing it for a while because I just wanted to go out drinking with my friends.
“But as soon as stopped training and competing, I started putting weight on. That had never happened before and it was a bit of a shock.
“I became really unfit as well, and that’s when I realised I wanted to get back into training.
“I think a lot of girls worry about what they look like when they’re training or doing exercise. Sometimes it might be because they don’t want to mess their hair up, but sometimes it’s because they’re not that confident.
“A lot of girls who are naturally thin think they’re healthy and can eat all the junk food they want.
“But just because you’re thin doesn’t mean you’re healthy. If you’re puffing when you get to the top of the stairs, you’re not fit.
“I like kick-boxing because I’m always learning. You can always improve your technique. I do it because I want to stay in shape. It uses all of your muscles.”
Neely Duffy, aged 15 from Radcliffe, has danced all her life, but recently started kick-boxing to try something new.
Neely, who goes to Little Lever High School, said: “I’d danced since I was tiny and I teach now too but I wanted to try something different.
“I think some girls might be intimidated about trying something new like kick-boxing but they’re really friendly here. When I started, the instructors were pleased to have new members, and it’s really welcoming.”
The new sessions are part funded by the Sportivate National Lottery money, which is allocated by Bolton Council.
Entry for each session costs £2 and will be held at 8.30pm on Mondays and Thursdays starting from April 28.
For more information, call the North West Warriors Martial Arts Centre on 01204 772248.