Girls lag behind in PE, health study shows

Scottish Health Survey highlights difference between sexes in reaching suggested levels of physical activity

Teenage girls still lag way behind their male peers in reaching recommended levels of physical activity, the new Scottish Health Survey reveals.

The gap is closing but remains particularly pronounced between the ages of 13 and 15, with 48 per cent of girls in 2010 doing at least an hour of physical activity a day (including at school), compared with 75 per cent of boys - that's up from 42 per cent the previous year.

Across all the age groups as a whole, the total gap has narrowed substantially, with 70 per cent of girls meeting recommended targets and 75 per cent of boys. And the gap in the youngest age group, two to four- year-olds, has been wiped out - albeit partly due to a drop-off in boys' activity levels: 70 per cent of boys and 69 per cent of girls reached the target.

The results seem to indicate that several projects specifically targeting girls' physical activity are gradually making progress.

A TESS News Focus (9 September, issue) reported on initiatives such as Fit for Girls, a national programme run by Sport-scotland and the Youth Sport Trust, which has been taken up by 91 per cent of Scottish secondaries.

It requires schools to devise a three-year plan to increase girls' participation in physical activity. Earlier this year, a report showed that 69 per cent of teachers who attended Fit for Girls reported increased participation of girls in PE.

"The health survey shows that participation amongst girls has increased, which is an encouraging step in the right direction, but there is still more work to be done," a Sportscotland spokesman explained.

Teenage girls are also less keen on outdoor activities, according to a Scottish Natural Heritage report.

The survey of 1,200 people aged 11 to 17 found that 93 per cent enjoyed spending free time outdoors.

But girls aged 13 and older did not feel confident about taking part in physical outdoor activities, partly due to fears that they might be teased by other girls.

The report, Enjoying the outdoors - attitudes and behaviour of young people in Scotland, advised that words such as "cool" and "fun" should not be used to promote outdoor events - mimicry of language believed to be used by young people lacked credibility and could be patronising.

Authors Scott Porter Research and Marketing said using such language sounded "a bit desperate".

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