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Getting Active Pretty Much Helps Everything

Today’s post is written by Kim Slaughter. Kim is a full-time research administrator while finishing her Master of Public Administration degree in nonprofit management and health services administration. She also serves as vice-president and development officer for the Kansas City, Mo., council of Girls on the Run—a national nonprofit program that encourages pre-teen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through running.

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Teen pregnancy? You probably thought that was on the decline, right? Well, it was. After several decades of the teen-pregnancy rate climbing, it finally peaked in the early 1990s and then decreased through 2005—then there was a 5 percent spike. The United States has the highest teen-pregnancy rate of the industrialized world, and recent statistics show that every hour 100 teen girls get pregnant unintentionally.

Obviously, the battle is far from over.

Many weapons are used in the ongoing war against unintended teen pregnancies. Studies show some of the effective prevention weapons we have are media, youth-development programs, [non-abstinence only] sexual education courses in schools…and something that may surprise you: sports.

Sports?! Uh-huh! In study after study, pre-teen and teen girls’ involvement in sports continue to show a positive impact in decreasing many risky behaviors—including teen pregnancy.

The Teen Pregnancy and Sports Connection

A look at the facts on sports and teen pregnancy show quite a compelling case:

  • Female athletes are less than half as likely to get pregnant (true for African Americans, Caucasians and Latinas).
  • Female athletes are more likely to be virgins.
  • Female athletes had their first intercourse later in adolescence, had sex less often and had fewer partners.
  • Non-athletes are twice as likely to experience their first intercourse between the ages of 10-13 (middle-school age). (It is hard to believe that is the fastest growing age group of sexual activity!)

Maybe it has a little something to do with being supervised after school, but it seems to go much deeper. So far, researchers believe girls may be using the self-reliance, confidence, sense of physical empowerment and social recognition gained through athletic participation to resist social pressures to exchange sex for approval or popularity. It is believed that being surrounded by positive role models and peers also has a lot to do with it. Unfortunately, physical activity and athletic participation decline as early as late elementary school for girls.

Maybe these statistics aren’t surprising to you or maybe they are downright frightening (I didn’t even mention all of the negative health and life effects to pre-teen moms and their babies!), but remember that you can help give girls the tools to make better decisions, and it may be as easy as helping them tie their gym shoes and dropping them off at practice—whatever that practice may be.

Here is some more good news—athletic participation is also helping young girls to avoid smoking, eat healthier foods, be happier (lower rates of depression in girls who play sports), get better grades, and have better relationships in their teen years and beyond.

As teachers, parents, friends, coaches and Fit Bottomed Girls, we have the arsenal to make a difference. Let’s get out and play! —Kim Slaughter

FTC disclosure: We often receive products from companies to review. All thoughts and opinions are always entirely our own. Unless otherwise stated, we have received no compensation for our review and the content is purely editorial. Affiliate links may be included. If you purchase something through one of those links we may receive a small commission. Thanks for your support!

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4 Comments
  1. Bugs Mom says:

    I also read recently that teen girls who participate in sports are far less likely to use drugs and have a significantly lower rate of sexual assault.

  2. Alexa says:

    It’s insulting and sexist to assume that teenagers are having sex because of low self-esteem and “empowerment,” and to seek popularity. It’s the result of a bunch of 40+ year old researchers looking down on young people and trying to understand what they’re doing and thinking. Surprise – sex is fun and it feels good. Why wouldn’t young people want to try it? And once they try it and decide they like it, why not continue?
    The answer is not to keep our precious daughters pure virgins until their wedding day, because that’s a sexist and unrealistic dream. The answer is to properly educate ALL young people on how to have safe sex, both in terms of preventing STIs and pregnancy and in terms of having healthy relationships.

  3. nursemomofgirls says:

    Just being “careful” and using birth control is not enough to prevent pregnancy and STD’s. If you are doing the deed there is a chance of pregnancy and STD’s. The ONLY way to prevent pregnancy is to NOT DO IT!!!!! So anything that will keep our girls from getting in to trouble is a bonus!

  4. Kara says:

    Hey, I’m right there with you. Although not an athletic type, I was an avid participator in the martial arts and considered myself more athletic from middle school to high school. I learned to respect myself, have tons of confidence, and well educated about what I felt comfortable with (physically and emotionally). Luckily, I was also never pressured into sex by “sexually mature” friends and boys I was dating. I was open and all of my friends assumed I would be the first to lose my “V-Card”, but I was the last (not for lack of opportunity).
    It’s not just about confidence and empowerment though. I’m now in college and have had sex with my (now-ex) boyfriend. For me it was knowing what I was comfortable with, and perhaps athletics had a part in that, perhaps it didn’t. I’m not an abstinence supporter, but I do believe that every person has an age where they feel comfortable, but sometimes younger girls (and boys) believe they’re ready when they’re not.