Research has shown that, regardless of gender, teenagers who are physically active have better mental and physical health and are more likely to enjoy learning.
However, a new study suggests that nearly 75% of teenagers aren’t meeting the daily recommendations for daily exercise, and this figure was much higher in girls than boys.
The researchers surveyed over 360,000 high school students in Georgia for the study. The students were asked questions about how much physical activity they took part in.
They also answered questions about the school environment, which included things like accessibility of sports, school safety, support at school, and school connectedness.
The results show that, overall, 75% of the students in the survey didn’t meet the daily exercise recommendations, and that female students were significantly less active than male students.
Gender differences in exercise at school
The researchers found that only 35% of female high school students exercised on a regular basis, compared with almost 60% of male students.
Furthermore, the study found that school environments and problems with culture could be responsible for low physical activity levels for teenage girls.
It shows that bullying played a large role in the gender differences in this area. Female students faced much more bullying over physical activity than male students, with societal norms and stereotypes around exercise being responsible for this trend.
According to researcher Janani R. Thapa: “The length of recess, physical facilities, and social environments at schools have been found to affect physical activity among students.
Over time, the state has observed declining levels of physical activity among all adolescents, but the rate is higher among female middle and high school students.
For example, female students who are active in sports and physically active may not fit the gender norm and hence may face bullying.”
The researchers add: “Results suggest that improving school climate can increase physical activity among adolescents. As new or existing school-based interventions and policies are considered by states and local governments, improving the school climate should be part of the overall strategy.”