I have never given much serious thought to the question of whether playing sports is good for girls. Camaraderie, competition, physical activity, cool uniforms — what's not to like?
But if you had any doubts in this direction, this month we have two large studies on the subject. One, from an economist at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, found that a good deal of the gains women have made in education and employment in recent years are due to the opportunities girls got after Title IX opened up sports to high school and college women in the 1970s.
The other, from an economist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, found that we have Title IX to thank for a lower risk of obesity among women who played sports as girls.
All of which has me wistfully remembering when my high school chemistry teacher tried to get me to join the track team.
I still remember what I thought as I declined: Running? Sweating? Really?
So here I am, all these years later, at the gym most mornings. Running. Sweating. Really.
Lately, my motivation has been strong, and I believe it's because of the very thing I might have enjoyed running track — teamwork.
Some mornings, I take a yoga class at City Gym in St. Petersburg. There's a core group of us sweating through the vinyasas, wobbling through the balance poses, laughing when we hear each other's joints pop, teasing our teacher for her unfailing optimism in our ability to do the unlikely.
Same goes for the other mornings, when I do a boot camp class. We work hard, but we also laugh a lot, and support each other in large ways (family drama) and small (can spray tans make your arms look thinner?).
I thought about my various "teams'' last week when six fantastic women I met through the local chapter of the American Heart Association came to the St. Petersburg Times' office for the photos and interviews in today's issue. As you'll see, they all exemplify the value of teamwork when it comes to achieving health and wellness goals.
These ladies are beautiful, smart, confident, funny — and so generous with their knowledge and inspiration. Photographer Scott Keeler, designer Suzette Moyer and I marveled at what natural models they all were, striking poses with hardly any prompting, clearly enjoying themselves and each other.
So even if you didn't get to benefit from high school athletics and Title IX, you can create your own team. See where it takes you, and enjoy the journey.