There's no shortage of statistics on kids' lack of physical activity, but this one particularly shocked us: Only 11 percent of girls ages 5 to 8 get the recommended hour a day of physical activity, compared with 42 percent of boys, according to a new study in the Archives of Disease in Childhood. What the heck is going on?
Part of it is that girls have less opportunity to get physical than boys, says Marj Snyder, Ph.D., chief program officer of the Women's Sports Foundation in East Meadow, NY. Decades after Title IX, there's actually still a gender gap in school gym classes -- a smaller percentage of girls are enrolled. But what's really driving the trend is that girls tend to feel less encouraged and less confident than boys, Snyder says. As disheartening as that sounds, it actually means there is a silver lining: There's lots you can do to give your daughter the boost she needs to set healthy habits for life. How to get started:
Lead the way. "Moms sometimes have a perfectionist attitude when it comes to teaching their daughters about sports," says Snyder. "They'll say, 'Oh, I don't know how to play basketball or soccer, so I can't teach my daughter.' " It doesn't matter if you weren't the star player (or even on the team). Simply spending time with your daughter shooting hoops, kicking the ball, or trying that crazy new dance game is what counts.
Offer lots of options early. "Girls enter sports later and exit earlier than boys," says Snyder. "That means we've got a smaller opportunity to get them involved." Whether it's simply going to the pool a few times a week or joining a martial-arts class, let her try a bunch of different activities until she finds something (or two) she loves.
Catch the high school game. "Kids tend to admire people just above them most," says Snyder. Take your daughter to watch some of the local women's teams for instant inspiration.