Factors such as safe venues and opportunities impact girls’ lives for the rest of their lives. With schools cutting back on recess, a de-emphasis on physical education nationally, and persistent inequalities in school-sport programs and community-recreation programs, girls and women continue to encounter structural barriers to participation.
Key findings in the Women’s Sports Foundation report highlight exactly how living an active life impacts both the physical and mental health of girls and women of all backgrounds:
- Cancer: “Women who took better care of themselves showed a 17% lower risk of any cancer, 22% lower risk of breast cancer, 52% lower risk of colorectal cancer, 27% lower risk of all-cause mortality, and 20% lower risk of cancer-specific mortality.”1
- Obesity: “Girls who are more sedentary are more likely to be overweight than boys who are sedentary2, urging the need to address the fewer opportunities for sport and physical activity participation for girls and issues of access to those opportunities.”
- Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia: “In general, the more physically active, the more likely a person would not experience cognitive decline later on in their life.”3
- Mental Health: “Exercise has the capacity to stimulate the creation of brain-derived neurotropic factor, which aids in the repair of neurons and the generation of new neurons.”4
In addition to its examination of the positive impact of physical activity on girls’ and women’s health, the report provides an in-depth look at critical topics like vulnerability to concussion, breast cancer risk, suicide, educational gains and women in the sport workplace.
The report is compiled from more than 1,500 studies examining women’s athletics and health, and research shows that for girls and women, the pathway to living a strong and healthy life is paved in part by participation in sport and physical activity.