Grubby changing rooms and embarrassment at getting sweaty in front of boys mean PE lessons are putting girls off exercise for lifeHalf complained they were ‘forced’ into doing team sports, such as hockey and netballA third said PE was
geared towards the sportiest and a fifth ‘felt like their body was on show'
00:56 GMT, 2 May 2012
06:52 GMT, 2 May 2012
Struggling to stick to your fitness regime Instead of blaming a long day or hectic schedule, it seems you may need to look a little further back in time.
Women are being put off exercise for life by their school PE lessons, a study has found.
Competitive classmates, grubby changing rooms and the embarrassment of getting sweaty in front of boys all contribute to girls avoiding the gym as adults.
Uniform: Girls from the Royal Commercial Travellers' School in Pinner, balancing on the wall bars, in 1956
Secondary school classes are the ones most likely to send girls running – or rather, growing up to do anything but.
In a survey, more than half of school-age girls said their PE lessons had put them off doing any exercise at all.
Almost half said they felt ‘forced’ into doing the same team sports, such as hockey and netball, year in and year out.
Many wanted to try ‘less competitive’ activities, such as dance, but said these were not on offer.
And a third complained that PE lessons were geared towards the sportiest pupils. The study also found that one in five girls avoided PE because they ‘felt like their body was on show’.
Enthusiasm: Some girls remain keen to take to the pitch
Roughly half said they hated ruining their hair or getting sweaty or dirty at school because they felt it was ‘not feminine’.
Others were put off by having to do sport in front of boys or use ‘dirty’ school changing rooms. The researchers said the results were ‘alarming’ and showed that girls were being ‘put off sport for life’ by negative experiences of school PE.
Sue Tibballs, of the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, which carried out the study, said: ‘If the only activities on offer are competitive sports like netball and hockey, you are going to have whole swathes of girls who feel pushed out and don’t want to do exercise.
'That continues into their adulthood.’
Team games: Pupils at St James Primary School in Muswell Hill north London taking part in a mixed netball session
She warned that teachers were finding it increasingly difficult to get their pupils enthused by sport because girls were ‘worried about their hair and nails’.
‘It’s also hard because there aren’t many sporting role models for girls. While boys grow up dreaming of playing for England, women’s sports tend to get pushed out.’
Only 12 per cent of girls aged 14 are doing as much physical activity as they should be, compared with a quarter of teenage boys.
During the study, 1,500 school-age boys and girls were questioned about how often they played sport and their attitude to PE lessons.
The results revealed that girls tended to become less and less positive about sport as they grew older, with many blaming secondary school PE lessons for putting them off.
While boys and girls tended to do the same amount of sport until aged 11, after three years at secondary school, girls were doing significantly less.
By the age of 14, fewer than a third of girls said they had done 60 minutes of physical activity in the previous week. For boys, the figure was 50 per cent.
The researchers found many girls ‘spoke nostalgically about PE at primary school, which they experienced as less formal and more fun’.