Research suggests that COVID-19-related lockdowns negatively affect teenagers and especially adolescent girls’ mental health.
What can be done to help teenage girls during the lockdown? Research is still being conducted into specific interventions tailored to mitigate the effects of home confinement. However, previous studies into school programmes to improve teens’ physical and mental wellbeing offer hope. A Chilean study found that high school students’ anxiety levels reduced by 13% and self-esteem improved by 2% after they introduced a new PE curriculum. However, increasing the level of physical activity may not be enough for adolescent girls. A longitudinal study following girls not engaging with physical education (PE) in Scottish schools found they were often inactive because PE classes did not fulfil their psychological needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness. The researchers included consultation and a choice of activity into the curriculum, which increased the participation of girls in PE. (Some respondents, for example, said they were keener on fitness training than athletics, hockey, rugby or cross country).
In addition, the HERizon Project, I am involved in has found that girls describe the support of others as a leading facilitator and the judgement of others as a leading barrier in engaging in PE. Inactive girls have low confidence in their skills and fitness and often do not want to exercise in the presence of others. Ironically, the lockdown offers an opportunity to study the effectiveness of home exercise for this group. The project builds on the findings of a 2017 study that no significant differences were found between cardiovascular fitness between a lab and home-based exercise. To study adherence for home-based exercise we have involved psychologists who are using Self-Determination Theory to motivate and empower adolescents to take ownership of their health.
Here is the current state of science on a Sparrho pinboard. NB: The pinboard contains research papers that have not been peer-reviewed yet, meaning that they have not gone through the standard scientific validation process yet.
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