Girls are 19 per cent less active than boys, who get more encouragement to exercise from their families and schools, say Australian researchers.
Even at eight years old girls were noticeably less physically fit and less active in comparison with boys.
The University of Canberra study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, looked at data from 555 students from 29 Canberra primary schools as part of the Lifestyle of our Kids (LOOK) study.
“Our research found that on average girls take almost 2000 fewer steps a day than boys, and eight-year-old girls had 18 per cent lower cardio-respiratory fitness than boys of the same age,” said researcher Rohan Telford.
“The data also shows that eye-hand coordination among girls was 44 per cent lower and there was a nine per cent lower perception of competence in physical education.”
The findings suggested that school was a stronger influence on boys’ activity levels compared to girls, he said.
“We also found that by age 12 boys received more support from their parents to be active.”
The gap in activity between the genders could be reduced by providing more opportunities for girls to participate in physical activities, the researchers suggest.
Other strategies should ensure girls receive the same encouragement as boys to exercise at school, at home and during extracurricular activities.
Last month federal Health Minister Sussan Ley launched a campaign aimed at encouraging teenage girls to get moving after new evidence they are only half as physically active as their male peers.
“It will also help us tackle a serious `epidemic’ of diseases and chronic conditions facing this current generation if they do not exercise more,” she said of the targeted TV ads and social media campaign.