Researchers from Australia suggest in a recent study that they have observed what could be a gender-based disparity in physical activity among young girls and boys, in which girls are encouraged to be less active than boys.

The study was based on data collected from more than 550 boys and girls, ages 8 to 12, from 29 schools as part of the Lifestyle of our Kids (LOOK) study in Australia. Researchers led by Rohan Telford from the University of Canberra, Australia, measured factors such as individual fitness (multi-stage run), coordination (throw and catch test), and the participants’ environment using questionnaires of an individual’s perception of competence in physical education, family support for physical activity, and school and extracurricular sports participation, according to a media release from PLOS.

According to the data, the researchers suggest that school and family influences on physical fitness may be stronger in boys than in girls. Per the research, girls were 19% less active than boys, and that lower physical activity among girls was associated with weaker influences at school and at home. The researchers also determined that girls were less physically fit compared to boys at age 8, including 18% lower cardio-respiratory fitness, 44% lower eye-hand coordination, higher percent body fat, and 9% lower perceived competence in physical education.

The researchers suggest in the release that variables not measured in this study may also contribute to physical activity levels in children, but that the factors measured could be modified and potentially reduce the gap in physical activity between boys and girls.

Based on these results, per the release, the authors conclude that strategies aiming to increase physical activity should focus on a variety of areas simultaneously, including home, school, and extracurricular activities, paying particular attention to equality of support and opportunities for girls and boys.

The study was published recently in PLOS ONE.

[Source(s): PLOS, Science Daily]