Physical activity is vital for boys and girls of all ages. Yet, by the time girls reach puberty, a significant portion will disengage from activities compared to boys. Educators and coaches across the United States often wonder about the underlying cause. While the reasons vary from girl to girl, it's not uncommon to see a dramatic change in the posture of an adolescent girl. The year before her breasts begin to develop, she stands with her shoulders back and a sense of confidence. Once her breasts start to develop, she hunches with a sense of embarrassment and less body assuredness.
This sense of body shame and lack of confidence contributes to the attrition rate. By the age 14, girls drop out of sports at twice the rate of boys.
What's worse: 64% of girls will quit organized sports by the age of 16-17, according to statistics from the Women's Sports Foundation.
These statistics are not only discouraging, they are unacceptable. Physical activity has many mental and physical health benefits that girls who drop out are missing. With an obesity epidemic increasing among every age demographic in the United States, physical activity has become even more important for girls. Studies show that good health habits, including diet and regular exercise, can pave a path to healthy adulthood.
And you don't need to be Simone Biles to reap the benefits. Just about any form of movement counts: gym class, Pilates, walking, swimming or organized athletics.
Our girls should not miss out on these benefits for any reason, let alone the fact that they may feel self-conscious. Finding a Sports Bra that can support her growing body physically is a no-brainer. She doesn't need to pay attention to anything other than moving and thriving.
We should do everything in our power to maximize the health benefits of physical activity while supporting our girls' growing bodies and adding to their sense of self-confidence.
Jennifer Wider, MD, is a nationally renowned women’s health expert, author and radio host. She is the author of four books, including "The Savvy Woman Patient," "The Doctor’s Complete College Girls’Health Guide," "The New Mom’s Survival Guide" and "Got Teens? The Doctor Moms’Guide to Sexuality, Social Media and Other Adolescent Realities."