It’s no secret that obesity is a growing problem in the United States with lack of physical activity being one of the main causes. When we’re younger our activity levels appear to be at its highest, but as we get older and our interests change, the less physically active we seem to become, and according to new research reported by NPR this lack of activity is especially acute among African-American teen girls.

A National Institute of Health study followed girls for 10 years, beginning at age 8 or 9, and found that over time their leisure-time physical activity declined dramatically and even more so for African-American girls. By age 17, half of the black girls followed — compared with a third of white girls — reported that they did no physical activity in their leisure time and experts are concluding that this decline at such a young age could be the reason that about half of African-American women in the U.S. are obese, compared with 30 percent of white women and why African-American women tend to put on weight years before their white counterparts.

Of course the layers to this issue go far deeper than this study suggests. Enrolling children in sports often costs money which for many minorities is an expense they can’t afford, especially since not only do minorities generally earn less than whites, but women earn less than men and many minority households are headed by single mothers. However it does make you think twice about the long term consequences of not encouraging children to participate in some form of physical activity as they age, even if it’s free.

Sound-Off: Did you stop exercising when you started puberty? When did you give up playing outside?

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17 Comments

  1. There is A LOT of truth to this article. My baby girl, who is now 14, completely stopped playing with her younger brothers, whom both turn11 last month, when she reached 12 years old. Her personality changed and for the first time she was obsessed with her hair.

    I blame myself more than anything. I have always made comments that praise the beauty of certain women, and I have always dropped hints of what a lady is and is not, and every positive trait had to do with some dainty congenial behavior.

    In hindsight, I wish I would have praised her tomboyness and allowed her naturally feminine virtues come out when they came.

  2. Girls have a duty to give up their playful, adolescent ways in order to fully realize themselves as a woman. I cannot understand what the push to have women in sports. Yeah they should exercise but sports promotes the a hyper masculine competitive side that should be reserved for men. Let girls be girls and maybe our community will begin to normalize again

    • @Harlem: @harlem why is that being active has to mean a girl is a tomboy or masculine? There are so many sports out there and regardless of which one they choose, they need to be doing something to be HEALTHY. Why is is normal to have high blood pressure and be obese? That’s not! A girl can run track, dance, ballet, soccer, left weights, cardio, bike ride, WHATEVER. I mean you can still wear a dress and be fit and why do I say this? I wear dresses and make up, BUT I love playing soccer, football, and dance. I workout, stay fit, and have EXTREMELY good cholesterol by EATING RIGHT (no fast foods like McDonalds EVER). I think you missed the point of the article completely.

    • @Harlem: REALLY? I guess we should just compete with other housewives to see who cleans up the house faster or better yet find our happiness in walking around grocery stores for exercise. C’mon now, we all need exercise in all of our lives and femininity does include competitive athletic endeavors. And what “normal” are you talking about b’cuz none of my history books have ever described a normal society, we are all a work in progress

    • @Harlem: This is the most clueless thing I have ever heard. Really? Sports promote leadership, loyalty and health. Our First Lady is an avid tennis player and she is anything less then feminine. In fact she is more of a mother because she sets a healthy example for her family.

    • @Harlem: Girl you cray

  3. It blows that women get blamed for so much structural problems. Power dictates most of our cultural norms so if you want to change the “fate” of little girls, then interrogate power but don’t blame women after they grow up

    • I totally agree with Yanni. Our society tells little girls that their looks are more important than their health. Men are “supposed” to have muscles…which requires working out. Women are “supposed” to be thin. There’s no emphasis on how to get there. Add to that the fact that the Black community celebrates curves and its no wonder young girls are okay with weight gain and getting curves before they leave elementary school.

  4. and competition is a heathy for EVERYONE, I think that’s backwards logic that women won’t be feminine if they play sports. They compete over knuckle headed boys which is stupid. Competition is healthy for men and women, and promotes pride in mastering a sport. Competition is a part of life!

  5. Wow this is disturbing but true. I think there are many layers to why black women especially don’t turn into active adults. I think one key factor is that we there are lack of “cool” relatable celebrities that showcase their fitness lifestyle. I am sure if Nicki Minaj walked around all the time talking about how much she went to the gym and how healthy she ate then I am sure more black girls would do it. Based on @Harlem ‘s comment there is clearly a lack of education and ignorance in our community. Shoot girls can be girls and do sports. How the heck do you think many of the mainstream actresses look beautiful and young they work the hell out and no one comes at them for being less feminine. We need more beautiful healthy black celebs publicizing their workout regiment.

  6. Women can’t help that they are beautiful in comparison to us so it makes sense that they would at least at some age gaze in the mirror. Ain’t nothing wrong that at all. Most girls don’t have the same number of competitive avenues to participate in sports in general. If the WNBA or Lingerie Football League were paying millions, there would be a real effort from MEN and women to invest women’s athletics and keep them playing. Let’s remember that many people except for olympic athletes didn’t play sports past youth but as our society grew and profits rose from games like baseball, football, and basketball, more people especially men started to turn themselves into athletes. Women track athletes earn lots of money because Nike and the other brands invest. On the local level, parents have to invest in young girls and their athletic goals and stories like these will disappear

  7. I had this convo with my child’s father and he didn’t want our daughter to play basketball because of the perception of butchness that’s comes with women’s basketball. But after we talked through his benevolent ignorance we decided that we had to let her play. Her love for the sport is too great to deny just because we want to see our daughter also embrace wearing “girly” clothes

  8. I started going through puberty at age 10 and by the time I was 12, my body looked more developed then some grown women I knew. Prior to that I loved to run, jump and play outside but once I grew breasts and a behind , I was too embarrassed because things were “jiggling” and the other kids were laughing at me. So I chose to cover my body with baggy clothes and avoid any physical activity to avoid embarrassment. My early puberty was partially genetic (my mother developed to a lesser extent than I did at that age, but still early), and likely also linked to the chemicals in all of the processed food and my environment. Also, I have read that alot of the formula, baby equipment and even hair products frequently used by black women on thier children contain chemicals that mimic estrogen and cause early puberty. This is likely all connected to the stats you listed in the article!

  9. Funny thing is I’m a black female who plays college basketball, and I still come off as feminine. I wear short shorts, dresses, skirts, make-up, 6 inch heels, I get my hair done, nails and feet done. Playing a sport has nothing to do with not being feminine at all, Its a way to stay fit and healthy. I eat healthy so I can perform on the court. I’m not this little butch/skinny thing walking around either. My measurements are 34, 28, 36 and every bit of me is toned (not muscular)! I strongly agree that we need to have more black girls do something active to stay healthy; whether if its playing a competitive sport, or dancing. THERE IS A SUCH THING AS BEING GIRLIE AND SPORTY; just look at other girls that played ball such as Gabrielle Union, Skylar Diggs, Maya Moore, Candace Parker. These are beautiful black women who are athletes.

  10. I think this is.a multi-faceted issue that is partially culturally based. I think blacks tend to believe that after a certain age black girls should be/ act like girls. What I’ve noticed is that black men take on a hyper-masculine belief that sports are only for.”the guys” and girls feel left out so they give up. And black mothers don’t encourage them to continue being physically active. I also think that the fear of black girls becoming butch or gay is an issue. Although its wrong, many mothers and fathers I know of still believe this. There is also the hair issue……we all are far too familiar with this one. Really sad when u think about it….

    • True. I was a major tomboy. I used to love to play basketball with the boys, but around 16 or 17 my cousins told me it was time to become a cheerleader (read: get on the sidelines). Then my mom and others started questioning my sexuality because I would rather be outside with the boys than in the house or on the phone like the other girls. That made me change quickly and I stopped being so active. I did play tennis and wanted to play softball, but there was the prevailing image that the softball players were butch, so I didn’t do that. In adulthood I’ve tried to continue to workout in a gym or so, but I think my spirit for the outdoors and sports was broken as a teenager.

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