IWG World Conference on Women and Sport Theme 1: Being well to play well
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The event in Gabarone, Botswana, is quickly approaching. Leading up to the event, which begins on 17 May, sportanddev.org is exploring the panel themes.

The first theme, “Being Well to Play Well” centres on women’s health. Day one will include sessions covering multiple facets of the topic. Some panels will explore problems impeding women’s access to sport, like disease, lack of health facilities and physical discomfort due to inadequate sport apparel. Others will discuss promoting activity for health benefits, and how this affects women in particular.

According to the World Health Organization, “1/3 of all female deaths are due to cardiovascular disease and stroke.” What’s more, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women worldwide. In addition to contributing factors like diet and environment, regular physical activity can substantially decrease this risk. As cited in a 2017 report from the American Heart Association: “Chronic physical inactivity contributes to poor levels of cardiorespiratory (or aerobic) fitness, which is a stronger predictor of adverse cardiometabolic and cardiovascular outcomes than traditional risk factors.”

But physical health is only one aspect of wellness. The WHO also notes that “depression is the leading cause of disease burden for women in both high-income and low- and middle-income countries.” Much like physical benefits, participating in sport can cause a significant improvement in mental health. Adding physical activity to one’s routine both increases endorphins and reduces stress hormones, decreasing the risk of depression.

There are also psychological benefits to participation in group sport. A 2018 study conducted by Public Health Wales NHS Trust and Bangor University looked at adverse childhood experiences and resiliency rates among participants. The study found that overall, participation in sport and community activities reduced the rate of mental illness in adults and children:

While much attention has been paid to the cardiovascular and weight reduction potential of sports participation, its impact of friendship opportunities, benefits to mental health, access to role models and the other aspects of resilience that engagement in sports facilitates needs to be factored into its benefits and further understood.

On 17 May, conference participants will bring attention to these factors. They will also focus on finding solutions. Nasima Razmyar and Tarja Loikkanen (Culture and Leisure Sector at City of Helsinki) will lead a discussion entitled “The role of cities in promoting physical exercise- reducing inactivity as a strategic goal in Helsinki.” Following this example, we can learn to transform public spaces to increase access to sport and recreation. 

Panellists will represent multiple countries and cover many aspects of wellness. While topics vary, all participants share a goal of improving health, allowing women and girls to be well—and play well.



Target Group
Girls and women

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