Got a teenage or pre-teen girl who just isn’t that into sport? Here’s the lowdown on why exercise is so important, why she might be disengaged from sport, and some advice on how to get her moving.
The importance of physical exercise
Every teen should get at least one hour of exercise each day. The benefits are both mental and physical.
- Research shows that exercise helps to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Exercise can give teens a confidence boost
- Team sports help your teen build social skills and make friends
- Being part of a club or team helps your teen feel like they belong somewhere
- Since exercise reduces stress, it helps your teen sleep better – super important!
- Exercise reduces the risk of teens developing conditions like obesity and type-2 diabetes
- Physical exercise boosts the immune system
- Teens build new motor skills and improved movement patterns through exercise
- Physical activity gives teen heart and lung health a boost
- Exercise, especially gentle physical activity, can ease menstrual cramps
Since exercise is so beneficial for girls, it can be a little worrying if they don’t care about sports at all. Sometimes, however, it’s just about finding the right type of physical activity for them.
Reasons why a girl just isn’t feeling sporty
If your child or teen tells you they “don’t like sports”, there might be a specific reason why. Here are some of the most common reasons why girls just won’t do sports.
Bullying is a huge concern for teenage girls. If someone on a team is bullying them, or they feel self-conscious about their appearance (more on that below), they may actively avoid all sport. Kids need the adults around them to help them feel good about their bodies, and to assist them as they learn how to stay resilient against bullying.
Worryingly, there’s a trend towards teens dropping out of sport because of body image woes. It’s no secret that teen girls feel serious pressure to look good all the time, and if she’s feeling self-conscious, your teen will shy away from sport. Remember, girls must adjust to hormones and rapidly changing bodies – it’s not easy, and they need all the support they can get.
A bad experience can put teen girls off sports for good. If they’ve suffered an injury or eating disorder, clashed with a coach, or been frightened, they might need some gentle coaxing to return to sport again.
Aside from the fact that teens and kids are still growing, they’re also still developing motor skills. This can lead to teens feeling clumsy or a little uncoordinated. If they’re embarrassed by their lack of coordination or their clumsiness, they may avoid physical activity altogether.
Teens often associate “sport” with the typical team sports they play at school. If they don’t like these sports, they may assume they won’t like any sport.
Pressure to succeed
Sometimes, girls might feel that, unless they are amazing at a particular sport, there’s no point in trying. This can happen when a teen is a perfectionist, or if their parents put pressure on them to be great at everything.
If a teen feels under too much pressure to succeed, sport ceases to be fun and they’ll actively avoid it. Remember, exercise should always be fun.
Exercise for girls who don’t like sports
It’s always a good idea to show your kids just how many sports are open to them, because chances are, something will spark excitement. However, if they’re not participating in sport, here are other ways to introduce exercise at home.
- Home exercise videos – there are lots available online
- Family-based exercise, such as a trip to the bowling alley or the park
- Not all exercise is team-based – your teen might prefer a trip to the gym
- Home trampolines, skipping rope, and other equipment can help your teen enjoy exercise
- Try exercising with them – this might give them the confidence they need to thrive
Hints and tips to get your kids moving
The key takeaway is that we’ve got to keep kids moving. Here’s how to do just that.
- Expose your kids to all kinds of sports so they get a feel for what’s out there
- Enforce some rules for how long they can sit on computers or mobile devices without moving around
- Encourage them to take your dog, or a neighbour’s dog, for a walk
- Emphasise how physical exercise can help them feel good about themselves, inside and out
- Encourage teens to simply move more, whether it’s dancing around the living room or walking to school every day
At Lava Tribe, we know how important it is for girls to express their unique identities through sport and exercise – that’s why we are dedicated to getting girls moving. If you’re looking for inspiring stories about incredible female athletes to share with your girls, check out our Lava Tribe girls, like Skylah Hamill and Abigail Spelde.