Your Health

Research study reveals young women and girls lack recommended exercise

 Mountain View High cheerleading
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Mountain View High cheerleaders get their recommended hour of exercise by running around campus in this photo from 2015.

According to U.S. News and World Report, a new research study that includes data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Survey concludes that girls and young women ages 12-29 aren’t meeting the recommended guidelines for exercise.

The American Heart Association recommends teens get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per day and adults get 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week.

Many young women and girls may not be playing sports or taking part in athletic activities in the same ways their male counterparts do. Exercise is critical for preventing obesity, heart disease and cancer, and can improve moods, decrease anxiety and depression and produce a positive body image.

Encouraging exercise

Following are four ways to encourage girls and young women to get more exercise.

• Schools and universities. Schools and universities could continue to provide even more education on the importance and benefits of exercise and the risks of not meeting the recommended guidelines from the teen years into adulthood.

In addition to PE classes in elementary, middle and high school, teachers and eventually professors in college and graduate school could encourage movement throughout the day with short bursts of activity between academic lessons or lectures and by providing information on the benefits of playing team sports. Many Los Altos schools and California universities are already engaging in these ways, and the more that follow suit, the better.

• Parents. Parents could lead by example by living an active and healthy lifestyle themselves, which could encourage their children, especially girls, to stay active as well.

In addition, parents could provide extra support, incentives and encouragement for their daughters to participate in team sports or active extracurricular activities such as dance and gymnastics. The Los Altos area is fortunate to have an array of activities for families, children, teens and adults.

• Family physicians. Family physicians could provide further education, from a medical perspective, on the importance of exercise and could partner with insurance companies to provide special incentives, specifically for their young, female patients, to stay active. The benefits of this type of medical education could be really positive and encourage lifelong habits that contribute to an active and healthy lifestyle not only to prevent diseases, but also to increase the quality of life and future health of women.

• Media. The media, including TV shows, digital and social media campaigns, YouTube videos, podcasts, news stations, magazine publications, celebrities and other outlets, could provide more positive reinforcement for young women and teen girls to compete in sports, get outdoors and take classes to stay active. The focus ideally wouldn’t be about losing weight or staying thin, but rather about being physically, mentally and emotionally strong, healthy and empowered.

When it comes to exercise, here is a huge opportunity for awareness, education and positive change for young women and girls.

Reena Vokoun is owner of the Los Altos-based Passion Fit. For a class schedule and more information, visit

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