The health of women is a sure indicator of the general health of the community they live in. Building up this argument further, researchers from the University of Queensland suggest that getting more girls and women to play sports would improve health around the world.
Not only would it improve physical health, suggest three researchers from the university’s School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, but it would also improve mental, social, political and economic health across the world.
Using data from 146 countries, the team found that nearly all (137) had a population in which males were more active than females.
High-income countries are also not necessarily more likely to have more women participating in sport, with lead researcher Professor Wendy Brown commenting that, “Gender differences are not confined solely to low and middle income countries. Some of the highest levels of physical inactivity for women occur in affluent Middle Eastern countries.”
“However, even in high-income countries where there are fewer cultural barriers to female participation, there are still surprisingly high differences,” Professor Brown said, “In Australia women are still about 30% less likely than men to meet physical activity guidelines.”
However news released on Wednesday did reveal that Australia’s 2016 Olympic squad would be more than 50% female for the first time ever. The team also pointed out that the previous 2012 Olympic Games in London was the first to have women competing for every nation represented, and the percentage of female athletes in London 2012 was also a staggering improvement on previous years, with 44.2% of athletes at London 2012 female, compared to just 2.2% prior to 1920.
To coincide with the upcoming Games the journal The Lancet, which published the study, has released four major research publications on physical inactivity, and in recent years researchers have become increasingly interested in how exercise can benefits girls and the importance of encouraging them to partake in physical activity.
A UK study published this year found that although those who cycle in childhood are more like to cycle as teenagers, teenage boys were still far more likely to cycle than girls, with only 8% of girls cycling in the previous week compared to 37% of boys, and only one in 60 cycled to school, compared to one in seven boys.
And an Australian study looking into how to motivate teens to exercise also found that girls were less likely to exercise than boys, with researchers suggesting that encouraging exercise that prioritizes having fun with friends, rather than competition, could be the key to motivating more teens, including girls, to get active.
In addition to research in the area some positive action is also being taken, with the Australian Government launching the ‘Girls make your move’ campaign,’ earlier this year to encourage more girls and women to get involved in sport.
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