On World Obesity Day, which was celebrated on March 4th, the WHO Europe reminded us that adolescent girls are insufficiently active, especially compared to adolescent boys. Globally 84.7% of girls do not meet the WHO physical activity recommendations of a minimum of 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity. It was also noted that participation of girls in physical activity declines throughout adolescence.
A recent study involving WHO Europe identified several reasons why girls are not doing enough physical activity. Perceived lack of competence, discomfort when exercising, lack of time or lack of support from relatives and teachers, safety concerns or lack of opportunities are major barriers to getting more girls and young women active. Competitiveness is also often considered as something that can contribute to girls not wanting to pursue sport and physical activities.
A range of evidence-based policy actions that incorporate a gender-responsive approach are needed to improve the participation levels of adolescent girls in PA and sports. These actions can break down the barriers to PA among adolescent girls. For instance, appropriate urban design and public infrastructure greatly contributes to active mobility. It is also very important to identify physical activity opportunities before, during and after the school day.
The WHO Europe factsheet on Barriers and Facilitators of Physical Activity Participation in Adolescent Girls contains both key facts and figures and more concrete policy implementations and recommendations, which can help address the falling activity levels in adolescent girls and hopefully revert this long-term trend.