“Lack of physical activity among girls leading to poor mental health and low aspirations, warn experts.”
There was a lot in the news this week discussing sport, the differences between how young girls and boys participate (or in some cases don’t) and the correlation between physical activity and mental health. But this headline from The Independent jumped out at me. I found it frustrating. It frustrates me that so many young girls avoid physical activity, mostly because they’re so self-conscious. Uncomfortable sweating. Don’t want to seem “unfeminine.” Worry that they’re not perfect at it, or even worse, that they’ll fail. And that this avoidance can have long term implications for their future - mentally, emotionally and physically. In fact, a study in 2015 found girls aged 10-12 in England struggle more with their bodies, looks and health than most other countries in the world
But, you want to know what was more powerful than the frustration? The motivation. I want to reach out to every girl who feels this way and say, “You CAN! You’re amazing!” It’s ok to sweat and it’s ok to not be perfect. The most important thing is you tried. Your best IS the best!
While I brought Mini Mermaid to the UK for very personal reasons, I’m inspired by the girls who have participated in our programmes in Leeds, London and soon in Liverpool. In 2016, we conducted an impact report to see if our programme achieved what it set out to do. Five key benefits for the girls emerged:
These benefits transcend just participation in physical activity. Yes, we end each curriculum with a 5K challenge, but this challenge acts as a powerful vehicle for goal setting for each girl, and the belief that she can achieve. It’s the starting point for applying the lessons of Mini Mermaid. The girls became more aware of their own value, their strength and their ability to positively contribute to their families, schools and communities. We had one girl tell us, “I used to think I was bad at maths....I'm not bad, I just do it at my own pace.” Other girls said, “you learn how to stand up for yourself” and “It helped me to walk away and not listen to the bully.” A third said, “At Mini Mermaids we learn how to make people feel better if they have a problem.”
As we continue to grow Mini Mermaid in the UK, we hope that more girls have this type of positive experience with lasting rewards. I’d welcome anyone interested in learning more about Mini Mermaid UK, whether it's about volunteering or starting a programme to contact me.