Imagine a 9-year-old girl clad in shin guards and cleats. Her hair’s pulled back in a ponytail and she’s chasing a soccer ball up and down the field. She’s sweating. She’s breathing heavily. She’s probably even throwing an elbow or two.
However, she’s probably not worrying how fat she looks in her shorts.
Despite weight issues pervading the minds of girls as young as six, studies have shown that participation in sports is a mitigating influence on negative body image.
According to a study conducted by the Women’s Sports Foundation, female athletes are more likely to have a positive body image, and less likely to consider themselves overweight, than their unathletic peers.
Our Culture of Weight Obsession
In the U.S., weight bias has become as common as prejudices based on sex and race. And it starts young. By the age of five, many children have grasped our society’s weight intolerance and incorporated into their own viewpoints.
In a startling example of our daughters’ body dysmorphia, a 2006 study by Levina Clark and Marika Tiggemann showed about half of girls between 9-12 rated their own bodies as too heavy, despite the fact only 15 percent of them were actually overweight.
Unfortunately, weight obsession is just the beginning. It can lead to eating disorders, depression, poor self-esteem, and even substance abuse.
Sports Participation Leads to Body Acceptance
Big boobs. Thin waist. Nice legs. Our society evaluates the female body on how sexually attractive men find it.
Sports, however, provide females with another judge and jury. Suddenly, men’s sexual gratification isn’t the only thing that matters. The female body has become a machine–a tool for optimal sports performance, and a girl who once viewed herself as tall and gawky can achieve body acceptance on the basketball court.
Athletics is the antidote to poor body image.
Girls who participate in three or more sports per year are more likely to have high scores on body-esteem measurements at all grade levels, according to Go Out and Play: Youth Sports in America.
Sports give females more than just an opportunity to view themselves differently. It provides them with a chance to make physical fitness a part of the rest of their lives. Exercise increases metabolism, improves physical conditioning, and as a result, enhances one’s overall appearance.
Athletics has become a key link in the chain. Whether it’s from developing an enlightened viewpoint or a healthier lifestyle, sports participation can help young girls battle our society’s weight obsession.
Liz Davenport crafts lively stories and informative articles that add fun to healthy eating and physical activity.
Her blog, www.behealthymakeartlovelife.com [http://www.behealthymakeartlovelife.com], gives her readers a glimpse into her life as a wife, mother, writer, graphic designer and health advocate.
Please visit her professional website, www.lizdavenportcreative.com, for additional information and resources.
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Author: Liz D Davenport