A Strong Start - Girls, Golf & Fitness

How golf and other sports can help girls develop a healthy lifestyle.

by Bill Phillips

There’s no shortage of statistics showing that today’s kids aren’t getting enough exercise—and the problem may be even more pronounced among girls.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of kids who are overweight has more than doubled during the past 30 years. Eleven percent of 6- to 11-year-olds and 14 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds are obese, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Experts attribute this lack of fitness and increasing obesity to the sedentary lifestyle many youth have adopted. Young people often swap outside play for watching a favorite show or playing a video game. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average child watches three hours of television per day, and on average spends two and a half more hours per day on other forms of media, such as video games and music.

A recent study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood found that 42 percent of 5- to 8-year-old boys get the recommended one hour of exercise per day, while only 11 percent of girls that age got at least an hour of exercise. Among many possible reasons for this, researchers believe that girls have fewer opportunities to get involved in physical activities, and may feel less confident than boys to play sports.

“Children are becoming more sedentary instead of more active,” said President of American Diabetes Association Alan Cherrington, Ph.D., in a press release. “Parents need to make a commitment to lifestyle changes that includes the entire family—or the entire family may suffer."

Girls tend to get involved with sports later in life, and leave them earlier in life than boys, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation There may be a small window of opportunity to get young ladies interested in a sport.

Moms and dads can use a simple strategy to motivate their daughters get enough exercise: inspire them learn to love an outdoor sport, game, or activity. If they genuinely enjoy a fitness-related activity, girls won’t have to be nagged to go outside and play—they’ll go outside on their own. As they boosting their daughters’ confidence and set them up for a healthy lifestyle, parents are also offering these girls other benefits, say Jean Zimmerman and Gil Reavill, authors of Raising Our Athletic Daughters. Young women involved in sports are less likely to drop out of school, and more likely to go to college and graduate, and are less likely to use tobacco and drugs than their peers.

Golf is a one great option for a fitness activity girls can genuinely enjoy. It provides multiple benefits, including plenty of healthy exercise.

Playing 18 holes involves walking at least four miles, giving kids a healthy start in life. Walking provides a lifetime of health benefits, strengthening muscles, joints, and the immune system. Research indicates that regular walking can prevent diseases such as diabetes, strokes, and heart disease. The immediate benefits for girls are important, too, as walking helps them maintain a healthy weight, and form lasting fitness habits.

Another benefit of golf is that parents can play with their daughters, allowing moms and dads to spend valuable time with their kids, building their relationship and setting positive examples of healthy exercise. For girls, it can be especially valuable to see their mothers enjoying a sport, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation.

Golf has a reputation for being expensive, but many opportunities are available for kids to play golf for a very reasonable price. The golf industry has a vested interest in seeing youth become life-long golfers. Parents can purchase junior golf clubs, and kids can to play golf at a much cheaper rate than may be available to adults. As a teen, my sister played some of the nicest golf courses in our region in a junior golf league for $3 per tournament. Being on a high school golf team often means students can play for free.

Golf and many other sports are not only enjoyable for girls, but also important as they learn to live healthy, active lifestyles that will have a positive impact long beyond their childhood years.

This article is by Bill Phillips (of GolfClubsConsultant.com). He has enjoyed playing golf since he was a young teenager. His site (no longer active) offered a wealth of information and advice about selecting and using golf clubs.

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