A great guest blog from Kate Hill, Founder of FunMeFit www.funmefit.com
There's no point in telling a teenage girl that spending too much time on Facebook and other social media websites is making her unfit, under confident and anxious. She'll either argue with you or march to her room and update her Facebook status telling all her friends what you've just said.
Compared to 40 years ago when girls used to be anxious about 'real' things like death and financial uncertainty, it seems that today's girls are more anxious than ever, "Research suggests that the surge in anxiety among girls today is not a function of household income. Other factors such as new technology appear to be more relevant," says Dr. Leonard Sax, author of "Girls on the Edge."
As well as anxiety, there seems to be a direct correlation between modern living, the increased use of social media and inactivity among teenage girls. Many suggest that coupled with a lack of encouragement at school and existing confidence issues, social media is allowing anxieties to grow and discourages girls in particular from participating in exercise.
The Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) commissioned a report, Changing the Game for Girls, which identified that UK girls are not getting enough exercise. Over half blamed their experiences in PE for it.
"The over-riding priority of PE and school sport (PESS) should be the health, well-being and confidence of every child," said Sue Tibballs, Chief Executive of WSFF.
"The overwhelming majority of our young women are leaving school with such dangerously low levels of physical inactivity, and in many cases, a related lack of confidence in their appearance and abilities, is simply unacceptable."
"This research does bring some good news: it has found that overwhelmingly girls want to be active, to take part in physical exercise, and to stay healthy."
"What needs to change is not their appetite to get involved, but the type of opportunities and level of encouragement that society, particularly in education, offers them to do so," Tibballs added.
Many girls are offered a limited choice of sports like Tennis, Netball and Athletics at school. Many are uncomfortable about taking part in PE, thinking of it as a chore and it's no wonder they continue with inactivity argues Kate Hill, Founder of FunMeFit, "I'm 27 now and remember that even though I was good at sports in general and excelled in Athletics, I found very little encouragement from school. I was naturally good at sprinting but my school were not interested in helping me reach my potential, despite the fact that I won gold every year at sports day. Even when I left school, I didn't know where to continue with sprinting, society did not provide much more encouragement either."
Through FunMeFit, Kate has developed a community in which young people and families can find encouragement for getting involved in sports and fun activities, "on our website [www.funmefit.com] we have lots of interesting sports/activity clubs and organisations offering all kinds of fun activities to get involved in for everyone – there's dance, kids clubs, volleyball, Rock-It-Ball, football and even cycling, swimming and personal training. However our members choose to get active, they can feel encouraged and find support through new friends and the community atmosphere on FunMeFit."
The forum-based website aims to use social media like Facebook and Twitter to encourage young people, particularly young girls to get involved in sport and fitness again. "It's ok to spend time on Facebook and on FunMeFit but organise getting out of the house and have a dance with your friends or make new friends on FunMeFit by joining a group," continues Kate.
Sax suggests that young girls become anxious because they have so many friends on Facebook posting 'fun' images of themselves that other girls may feel that their lives are boring in comparison, "Imagine your 13-year-old daughter alone in her room with her laptop looking at her friends' Facebook pages. All of their pictures and posts are about fun things they are doing. Your daughter may decide that her own life isn't so great. She doesn't realize that all the other girls are only posting the fun stuff because nobody will 'like' the boring stuff."
FunMeFit is encouraging more girls to get involved in 'fun' physical activities, not only for the physical and mental health benefits of getting themselves fit and toned helping improving their body image but to help relieve anxiety by boosting their social circles and Facebook presence.
By creating a community that encourages members to get active and shows them what's on offer that's fun and interesting, FunMeFit hopes that teenagers and anyone else who has previously found it difficult to exercise, will feel more encouraged and able to get involved in sports and activities. "Social media can be used for positive purposes to bring people together for a greater goal of getting communities more involved, fitter, healthier and happier," says Kate.
By Kate Hill, Founder of FunMeFit www.funmefit.com
'PE classes to blame for girls' lack of exercise' by Nicole Canning - 3 May 2012 http://www.totallyliving.co.uk/fitness/2012/05/03/pe-classes-to-blame-for-girls-lack-of-exercise
Girls on the Edge, published on March 25th, 2012 - Julie Baumgardner http://timesfreepress.com/news/2012/mar/25/032512e2-girls-on-the-edge/