Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why Sport Is a Vital Goal for Women

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why Sport Is a Vital Goal for Women

Article excerpt

Byline: Dr Christian Jessen VITAL SIGNS

ALOCAL school in Lambeth, near to where I walk my dog, is the venue Sport England has chosen to announce the launch today of its new [pounds sterling]10 million campaign targeted at getting women from disadvantaged communities to play more sport. Even Gordon Brown is urging a cultural change that allows girls to see sport and physical activity as aspirational -- something that is most definitely not the case now.

Many girls enjoy games such as netball and hockey at school but as soon as they leave often all sporting activities stop. This is a shame.

The statistics show that campaigns of this sort really are needed. There has been almost no change in the level of women's physical activity in the UK for the past 20 years, with 80 per cent of women doing too little exercise to benefit their health.

Twice as many men play competitive sports as women and six out of 10 women prefer exercising alone to team sports. Is this because sporty athletic girls are seen as unfeminine and female team sports a little too sweaty and "butch"? I suspect that early experiences at school (don't we all have memories of terrifyingly masculine PE teachers hurling medicine balls at us?) have a greater impact on how girls perceive sport, and this is backed up by some evidence.

Research has shown that nearly a quarter of women say that PE at school put them off sport, two in five girls felt self-conscious about their bodies in PE lessons and a quarter of women hate the way they look when exercising or playing sport.

I remember having to play in "skins" (meaning top off ) as one team colour as opposed to "shirts" (top on) and absolutely hating it, feeling terribly self-conscious, but I suspect getting small boys to run around with their tops off is forbidden now. …

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