Girls heed the message: don't get thin, get fit

Most now value health above skinniness, but those at secondary school admit they just don't get enough exercise


Campaigns encouraging girls to put being healthy above being thin appear to be working, as a new study shows more than eight out of 10 girls put fitness first.

Research for the Active Inspiration campaign found that 82 per cent of school-age girls agree with the phrase "being fit and having a body in proportion is more important than being thin".

This is not necessarily translating into more energetic lifestyles, however. Almost two-thirds of 16-year-old girls still feel they are not active enough, according to a poll of more than 2,000 young people.

The problem gets worse as girls enter secondary school. Among eight-year-old girls, the numbers worried about inactivity are far lower, with only 38 per cent saying they are not as active as they would like to be.

The key to getting young people exercising seems to lie with the family. Among children whose parents never do any moderate exercise, 51 per cent say that leading an active life is not important to them – double the number when compared with children who do have active parents.

The Independent on Sunday has for the past year been campaigning to improve coverage of women's sport and to encourage more girls to become active.

Baroness (Sue) Campbell, chair of the Youth Sport Trust, said the high numbers rating fitness over body size could be a sign of the trust's work encouraging active girls to be mentors to their peers in schools. "Instead of us lecturing girls about body image and sport, it's about girls recognising that being healthy is more important than being thin," Lady Campbell said. "We know that young women who are healthy and feel good about who they are do better in school. Young women who are anxious about body image do less well."

More than half of secondary-school girls say that they are put off sport and physical activity because of their experiences of school sport and PE.

The Active Inspiration campaign is a joint project from the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) and Virgin Active that aims to encourage half a million young people to do more exercise, focusing first on girls.

Barbara Keeley MP, who co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women's Sport and Fitness, said: "Being active is crucial in the development of young people. It gives them the chance to interact with their peers whilst promoting a productive, healthy lifestyle.

"From schools to parks to gyms, we need to do more to promote the benefits of regular sport and physical activity. Active children become active adults – we need to help young people, and in particular girls, overcome the current barriers to leading an active life so that they can enjoy a healthier future."

A pilot project for improving PE for girls is being run at Handsworth Grange Community Sports College in Sheffield by the Active Inspiration campaign. All girls in Year 7 are helping plan their own ideal PE lessons in an attempt to work out what classes might encourage more to get active.

Ruth Holdaway, chief executive of the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation, said: "Our research and insight tells us that while girls do want to be active, they have very different needs to boys.

"Understanding what girls want from their physical and sporting experiences will help us enormously in designing a programme that will engage them and keep them interested for many years to come."

Edward Timpson MP, the minister responsible for school PE and Sport, said: "We know that those who really enjoy PE and sport are more likely to feel positive and happy, and active pupils tend to do better in their academic studies. So, it's exciting to see more schools developing new innovative approaches to promote physical activity for their children."

Case study: 'My parents encourage me to try different sports'

Holly Bloom, 12, lives in Handsworth, South Yorkshire, with her parents, Karen and Mark, and her brother, Luke, eight

"Some of the older girls feel doing sport would make them all sweaty and are worried how they look. I do football, netball and rounders. My parents encourage me. I'll come home and say, 'I might like to try this sport' and they'll say, 'That sounds good, try it.' We go camping and take a football or cricket set; we often do stuff like that."

Her mother, Karen, said: "My job is to make sure my children do whatever sport they want."

general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

    £40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

    Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

    £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before