Time to persuade girls sport is for everyone
PERSUADING girls to get out of their bedrooms and away from the TV to get fit is often a tough task.
Young teens in particular can have a natural resistance to exercise, and then there’s the little problem of looking hot and sweaty — very uncool in all senses of the word.
So, how do we persuade them to either go to the gym or to take part in a regular activity to keep them healthy?
Answers may eventually come from Bury, where they have beaten competition from towns across England to secure £1.8 million of National Lottery cash to help change the sporting habits of females nationally.
As the country’s Sport Secretary Maria Miller explained: “Last year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games were a triumph for women’s sport, showcasing positive role models such as Jess Ennis and Ellie Simmonds. It is vital that we build on that success, and get more girls and women playing sport.”
Now, Bury will be offering a variety of well-known sports, plus outdoor bootcamps, group runs, dance and fitness sessions like Zumba and aerobics, plus programmes to get older women involved like Pilates.
If traditional activities and sports don’t necessarily appeal to your picky teen, it’s worth bearng in mind that keeping fit doesn’t have to involve mainstream activities.
Jess Derbyshire, a 14-year-old pupil at Canon Slade School in Bolton, is a keen Irish dancer. She’s been taking lessons in this energetic type of national dancing for the last six years and travels to Urmston four times a week after school.
Over the school holidays, however, she found her exercise routine disrupted and needed a fitness boost — which arrived courtesy of her grandmother, Mrs Sandra Armstrong.
Mrs Armstrong is a member of the Ladies Workout Express gym in Swinton which was offering local teen girls free membership for the Summer in a FitTeen project. She thought it was a good way of stopping Jess from watching too much TV during the school holidays.
“I think this is a great scheme because it’s really important to help teenage girls to understand that it’s about exercise for life,” she said. “It’s too easy for them to stop exercising when they leave school and don’t have school sports to take part in, only to realise in their mid-30s that they’ve become very unfit.” As for Jess’s reaction — she loved it: “I’ve really enjoying going to the gym with my nan and I like it that I could do everything there. I think it’s helped my dancing as I feel stronger and more flexible, and I’ve improved my stamina.”
Gym owner Karen Pheasant commented: “It’s so important that girls and young women don’t fall into that fitness gap and fail to take up any exercise or sport after school. Bringing in the FitTeen project seemed an ideal way to encourage girls to come along with an existing member, and we’ve had some real success stories as a result — and a lot of fun! The scheme has deffinitely been worthwhile.”
Another excellent example of continuing sport into teens is Chloe Wallwork from Tottington who started playing cricket with her brothers and his friends in the street from being just five years of age. At eight, she joined Walshaw Cricket Club and has been steadily progressing — especially in bowling — ever since.
She’s now 20 and so good at cricket that she made history when she became the first female to play first-team cricket in the 125-year history of the Bolton Association League. She stated: “I was the only girl to play cricket while the rest of the girls were talking about boys. It was just me and the lads.”
And Bolton teens Claire and Heather Page, now 19 and 17, began unicycling with their dad, Dr Julian Page, several years ago. “The girls have always really enjoyed coming on runs,” he said. “It’s fun, and it’s a great way for them to keep fit.”
Leora Hanser, director of communications at the Women’s Sports and Fitness Foundation, said: “Giving girls the option to try a variety of different sports and activities can be really beneficial when it comes to protecting their health, developing their self-esteem and improving their body image. WSFF is currently working with the Department of Health to help schools create a positive environment for girls to do PE, and help to minimise drop out.”
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