Spotlight On: Sitting As Little As Possible

6 May 2022


This article first appeared in Queenwood Weekly News on Friday 6 May, 2022.

“Sit as little as possible.” The advice, offered by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche over a century ago, sounds like he knew how sedentary our lives would become, and not just because of a pandemic. He continues: “Do not believe any idea that was not born in the open air and of free movement – in which the muscles do not also revel.” Some of Nietzsche’s advice for life has not aged well, but this is certainly in tune with modern awareness of the importance of an active lifestyle.

Many of us have experienced the benefits of an active lifestyle and it is common for the habit of participation to begin at school. What you may not have considered in your own school days is the extent to which the sex of the participants or gender stereotypes might influence how the program was designed and the impact of this on participation.

Recently, AusPlay presented research that delves into the participation of Australian women and girls in sport and physical activity, and the difference between male and female patterns of behaviour. The research reveals that girls’ participation is highly motivated by physical health, fun and socialising. Overall, females are just as active as males and actually participate more in non-sport related activity like walking, swimming, and fitness activities. The Women and Girls in Sport, Active Recreation & Physical Activity Participation Review also identifies the importance of an early positive experience to foster lifelong engagement in girls and suggests a number of critical factors when providing a sport and activity program for girls. Research curated by the Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia has found “that mixed-sex sporting activities at school reinforce existing gender stereotypes that boys are ‘better’ at sport, leading to girls being discouraged from taking part”. They conclude that girls do better in single-sex PDHPE classes which result in greater confidence and competence.

This research is confirmed by our own observations at Queenwood. We recognise that girls prefer to participate in physical activity with similarly skilled peers; they value the opportunity to play in both competitive and social teams; they enjoy learning new skills in a supportive and fun environment; they prefer to wear uniforms that allow for all shapes and sizes and minimise body image concerns; and they like the opportunity to try new things to find and activity they enjoy. Our programs are designed accordingly.

We also understand that girls’ decisions to engage in sport, active recreation and physical activity is influenced by a complex value system which fluctuates according to age and stages in a girl’s life. For younger girls, participation rates are influenced by adults, peers and siblings who play a critical role in influencing positive behaviours and encouraging girls to move more and sit less. For some girls, adolescence can be a difficult and stressful time because of the rapid changes in body image and self-esteem. Changes in friendships and peer group, coupled with a transition between Junior and Senior Schools, can also affect the choice to participate. We also know that girls who are more physically active are more likely to be happy, contented and goal-oriented scholars who are engaged in their learning, are socially connected to their school, and value the opportunity to broaden their life-skills.

As a single-sex girls’ school, we are very proud to cater specifically for the needs of girls from K – 12 to ensure that they have access to a variety of programs dedicated to promoting life-long enjoyment of physical activity and the development of each individual’s skills and talents. The benefits of moving our bodies are indisputable for their physical, mental and social development, and  as custodians of young women we must do everything we can to ensure that they maintain their physical activity in the face of other growing priorities and interests.