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Overcoming the movement skills gender divide
With girls acknowledged as lagging behind boys in their movement skills, balance and physical activity and that the gender gap only widens as girls get older, a new UniSA research study is seeking to better understand this gender divide between boys and girls.
Dr Margarita Tsiros, researcher and physiotherapist from UniSA’s Alliance for Research in Exercise, Nutrition and Activity, says that girls may lack some of the basic movement skills and balance needed to be able to participate fully in physical activity.
Dr Tsiros explains “there is such a big push at the moment for children to be as physically active as possible, particularly because we know it is so important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle into adulthood.
“The problem is that many girls may have limitations in their physical skills – especially when it comes to ball skills, making it more challenging for them to engage in sports for instance. Dr Tsiros says reduced balance is another factor that could contribute to any difficulties girls may be having.
She adds “having good balance and stability is an essential part of being able to perform more complex skills like rolling or kicking a ball, catching, throwing, running and jumping.
“Interestingly, our prior research shows that girls may be particularly at risk of poor balance and that a range of factors might be important, including body size and activity levels.
“Girls tended to be less active than boys, and they found it more challenging standing on one leg on a balance beam.
“These are interesting findings that we want to explore further, so we can better-design therapy programs to improve balance and movement skills in girls – that way, we can set girls up for success in sport and physical activity and ultimately, better health in the long-term.”
Released in December, the Australian Bureau of Statistic’s recent National Health Survey 2014/15 showed disturbing figures for girls aged 15-17 with:
• The proportion of girls aged 15 to 17 years reporting no or low exercise levels (55.9%) was much higher than boys (38.3%).
• Less than half (44%) of girls aged 15 to 17 years were undertaking moderate or high levels of physical activity compared to 62% of boys.
• More than twice the number of boys aged 15 to 17 years than girls report high exercise levels (36.7% and 15.3% respectively).
The research coincides with the recent launch of an Australian Government awareness campaign to encourage young women to ‘make your move’ in response to the National Health Survey finding that teenage girls were only half as physically active as their male peers.
The #girlsmakeyourmove promotion is being headed by a series of fresh TV advertising spots starting from tonight, plus a social media campaign, featuring girls getting active and involved in physical activities or sports they enjoy.
Federal Minister for Health and Minster for Sport Sussan Ley says that “this campaign was a fun way to encourage young women in their teenage years to build their bodies as they are growing.
“It aims to tackle this sliding door moment in a young woman’s life when they actually are laying down the foundation for the rest of their lives.
“Physical activity in the teenage years lays down the muscle and bone you need for the rest of your life. It’s a unique time as your body develops and the greatest opportunity to build up strength for your later years’
“It will also help us to tackle a serious ‘epidemic’ of diseases and chronic conditions facing this current generation if they did not exercise more.”
In relation to the UniSA ‘Balance in Girls’ study, Dr Tsiros is seeking girls of all shapes, sizes and activity levels aged eight to 10 years of age to take part in her study.
For more information, parents can phone 08 8302 1365 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on the #girlsmakeyourmove promotion go to www.australia.gov.au/girlsmove
Images: Department of Health/Instagram.
20th January 2016 - TENNIS AUSTRALIA ENHANCES PLAYER PATHWAY FOR GIRLS AND WOMEN
10th August 2015 - VICHEALTH COMMITS $1.8 MILLION TO GET 25,000 WOMEN ACTIVE
2nd February 2015 - AUSTRALIAN YOUNGSTERS ‘CAN’T THROW, CAN’T CATCH’
7th March 2013 - QUEENSLAND PLAN TO GET MORE WOMEN INVOLVED IN SPORT
2nd August 2012 - POORER CHILDREN STRUGGLING WITH MOVEMENT SKILLS COMPETENCY
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