Research on Importance of Sports and Physical Activity for Girls

Categories: News

Recent research has found that girls who participate in sports have greater levels of self-esteem and self-image, are less likely to participate in sexual behaviors thus decreasing the likelihood of teen pregnancy and are less like to participate or exhibit risk-taking behaviors.

  • The more physically active girls are, the greater their self-esteem and the more satisfied they are with their weight, regardless of how much they weigh. Eighty-three percent of very active girls say that physical activity makes them feel good about themselves. (The Girl Scout Research Institute, The New Normal? What Girls Say About Healthy Living (2006))
  • For teen girls, being both physically active and a team sports participant is associated with a lower prevalence of sexual risk-taking behaviors. (Kulig, K., Brener, N. & McManus, T. Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 2003)
  • Girls who participate on one or two school sports teams were significantly less likely ever to have used illicit drugs. Girls participating in three or more sports were even less like to have used any illegal drug. (Page, R.M. and Tucker, L.A. Journal of Health Education,  1994)
  • Between 1997 and 2006, there has been a steady increase of girls and young women (aged 15-25) being involved in or been arrested for such illegal activities or such as prostitution (+48%), possession of a weapon (+5%), drug abuse (+2), DUI (+39%) and disorderly conduct (+33%). (FBI, Crime in the United States, 2007)


The long-term benefit of girls participating in sports goes beyond the physical and emotional.  In a 2003 study by MassMutual Financial Group, of 401 executive businesswomen surveyed in 2002, 82% reported playing organized sports during youth. According to the survey results, playing organized sports helped create better businesswomen. Executive women believed that sports helped women in a variety of ways, including:

  • 59% of the participants thought sports gave them a competitive edge over others in the business world;
  • 86% of the women felt sports helped them to become more disciplined;
  • 81% felt participating in sports helped them function better as team players in the workplace;
  • 69% of the women felt sports helped them develop leadership skills; and
  • 68% of the women believed their past in sports helped them learn to deal with failure.


However, many girls and young women do not get enough physical activity.  Additionally, there are indications that levels of physical activity or sports participation are further divided among girls of different racial and ethnic backgrounds

  • 61% of girls ages 9-13 did not participate in any organized physical activity outside of school. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Physical activity levels amount children aged 9-13 years, 2003)
  • In the 2005-06 school year, only 48% of girls in grades 9-12 attended a physical education class on one or more days a week. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth risk behavior surveillance, 2006)
  • Only 28% of all young women in grades 9-12 met the current physical activity recommendations. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth risk behavior surveillance, 2006)
  • White and Latina young women were more likely than African American young women to meet the current physical activity recommendations. (CDC 2006 et al.)
  • White young women are more likely than Latina and Black young women to participate in sports (54%, 44% and 44%, respectively). (CDC 2006 et al.)


Women and Philanthropy

  • More young women aged 15 to 25 participate in the following activities than young men: raising money for charity (27% for women vs. 22% for men); regular volunteering for non-political groups (21% vs. 16%); active group membership (22% vs. 18%); membership in political groups (17% vs. 15%); and, participating in a run/walk/ride for charity (20% vs. 15%). (Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, The Civic and Political Health of a Nation, 2006)
  • Women are more likely to give than men (85.6 percent compared with 80.7).
  • At highest income range (> $100,000), women give more than men, on average.