Regular physical activity in their youth can help protect girls from grave diseases in their adulthood

Is your little daughter content playing with dolls indoors, happy with TV and board games? Does she shy away from outdoor activities? If so, get her to go outdoors and play. The health benefit for a girl exercising at a young age is enormous. Here are four big reasons why you should encourage your young daughter to get involved in sports or physical exercises, the same way you would want your son to.

Reduces breast cancer risk

Young women and girls between ages 12 and 35 years who exercise daily decrease their risk of breast cancer. Researches indicate that girls who do moderate to vigorous exercise during their adolescence have decreased risk of breast cancer. Regular to moderately high level of physical activity may reduce hormones in premenopausal women, thus lowering tumour development. It is found that those who are physically active in the first ten years of menarche (onset of menstruation) are better protected against breast cancer than their sedentary sisters.

Prevents osteoporosis

Being of a smaller frame, Asian women are prone to osteoporosis. Pregnancies and lactation depletes calcium from the bone causing it to be fragile and brittle. Exercising develops bone mass. If you exercise during the period of peak bone growth that is up to 30 years, then you would have developed good bone mass density that you can bank on forever.

Prevents heart diseases

Plaques that potentially block the blood vessels start developing from a young age. How healthy the child eats or how physically active she is when young, especially before entering her teens, decides her heart health later in life. Physical activity has an indirect effect because it prevents obesity and a direct effect by preventing plaque formation.

Lesser chance of obesity

Dr. Douglas R. Thompson of the Maryland Medical Research Institute, Baltimore, found evidence that preteen girls who are overweight are 11 to 30 times more prone to being overweight or obese as an adult. A girl who exercises regularly or is physically active as a child tends to continue the active life compared to one who has had a sedentary childhood. Physical activity is only one part of staying at a healthy weight, but this efficacious habit developed at a young age and maintained, can keep away a plethora of adulthood diseases.

So how much should a girl exercise? NHS, UK recommends a one hour mix of vigorous and moderately-intense aerobic type exercise daily and muscle strengthening exercises thrice a week for children between ages 5 and 18 years.

(The author is a dietician)