Women Champions: An Inspiration

December 23, 2015 Gabriela Seplovich and Shahnaz Radjy

“The pursuit of physical well-being through sport is a principle we believe in completely. Not just for its unique power to move millions, but also for the strength of character, determination, and discipline required to practice regular sport in any form, at any level.” (Neville Koopowitz, CEO, VitalityHealth UK)

In early November, VitalityHealth – the UK Vitality program part of the Vitality global family – in association with Sunday Times Sky Sports announced The 2015 Sportswoman of the Year Award (SWOTY): Jessica Ennis-Hill. That makes her the Sportswoman of the Year for the second consecutive year!

Now in its 28th year, SWOTY, a prestigious accolade of female athletes determined by a public vote, continues to be one of the most influential awards in the British sporting calendar. Award Winner Ennis-Hill serves as a Vitality Ambassador in the UK, echoing Vitality’s global commitment to improving population health by understanding the profound impact that female athletes can have in inspiring girls and women to adopt healthy habits.

Her Life Depends on It III, a comprehensive report from the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), found that women who participate in organized physical activity report improved mental and physical health outcomes. Girls engaged in sports are more likely to have better bone health, making them less susceptible to osteoporosis. Regular exercise also improves mood and protects against depression and has even been linked to improved educational attainment. Sports can provide the foundation for women to lead healthy and fulfilled lives by boosting confidence and teaching critical life skills including leadership, team building, and discipline.

Honoring female athletes send an inspirational message to other girls and woman about the importance self-care and well-being. This can have a profound impact on the landscape of successful female leaders. Ernst & Young found in a global survey of 800 participants that over 90% of female C-suite executives participated in school sports, many of which attributed their success to skills acquired through sports. This data explains the surge of campaigns such as #LikeAGirl, which focus on building self-esteem, and This Girl Can, which promotes physical activity as a way for women to express independence, confidence, and improve mental and physical health.

Despite the positive impact, female teams and athletes continue to suffer from the gendered tradition of sports. According to the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF), female sports only received 7% of total air time and 0.4% of the total value of commercial sponsorships in 2013. Though there are almost 200,000 women competing in sports in the US, these biases translate into a dearth of female athletes for young girls to look up to. WSF found that by age 14, girls are dropping out of school and community sports programs at two times the rate that boys are, citing a lack of female role models as one of the driving factors.

You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to have an impact. Vitality recognizes the power of female champions as inspirational leaders in all capacities and we celebrate the important contributions of women – as daughters, mothers, community leaders, executives, administrators, trainers, coaches, analysts, and more – as critical components in building a worldwide culture of health.

 

In light of the reflective nature of the Holiday Season, take a moment to recognize all the inspirational women and in your life who push you to be a better version of yourself. Did any woman in particular got you into sports, helped you eat better, or change any other habit for you to become healthier? Let us know below or by tagging @VitalityUSA on Twitter.

Source of image: CDN Newsday

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