Campaign aims to get women exercising

Published: Saturday 17th January 2015 by The News Editor

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A new campaign has been causing a stir this week for showing that women don’t need the perfect body or an obsession with personal bests to enjoy sport.

There’s no alienating “Go hard or go home” type messaging, with toned bodies parading around in designer Lycra. And this isn’t about telling women they “should” be working out, in order to lose weight, or whatever.

The campaign is about women who exercise for themselves, for the love of it, and for the countless rewards they get from it – and to hell with worrying about how wobbly their thighs are when they jog, or whether they’re always the slow one at the back of the aerobics class getting the steps wrong.

There’s Victoria, a 29-year-old A&E nurse, whose spinning classes give her just the boost she needs to cope with a stressful night shift; 31-year-old Kelly, who pops on a workout DVD at home, so that being a single mum doesn’t have to stop her from exercising; and Grace, who loves nothing more than getting outdoors on her bike.

“We did a lot of research beforehand, and while we developed the campaign,” says Jennie Price, CEO of , which is leading This Girl Can. “We’ve known for a long time that the gender gap between men and women in the UK is very stubborn in sports participation – it’s around two million. But what I’m very cheered by is that 75% of women want to be more active, which we discovered through our research.”

Time limitations, childcare and cost are all factors in stopping many exercising as much as they’d like to, but Sport England found that the biggest barrier women admitted to was fear of being judged.

“If you’re a bit uncomfortable with your body – and lots of women are, even if they don’t really need to be – you have this dialogue in your head, that says, ‘I’m not really good enough for this, I’m not fit enough to be in that gym, I can’t put those Lycra trousers on because my thighs are enormous’ – whether they are or not is irrelevant; you think they are, so you don’t go.

“One of the things we’re trying to get across in this campaign is that if you feel like that, you’re not alone – but there is a way to think about exercise and fitness and sport where that doesn’t get in the way.”

The campaign is currently due to run until March, with TV and cinema ads and posters. The first TV ad aired on ITV on Monday evening, during Coronation Street.

The women featured were street-cast from leisure centres, Zumba classes and parks across the country and the team spoke to around 100 ladies to find the ones with exactly the right stories and who embodied the campaign’s message.

Other barriers, like cost and family commitments, are acknowledged, but the message digs deeper. “I wouldn’t want people to think we don’t take the practical barriers seriously too,” says Price. “And we invest lots of resources in tackling those, and there are ample women, particularly those who have jobs and children, for who time is always going to be an issue.

“But I think we can put on free sessions and offer creches and give people a really wide range of fitness choices, yet if in your head you’re still thinking, ‘There’s no way I’m going to take my clothes off and put on a sports kit’, then none of that is going to make a difference, and I think that’s fundamental.”

Copyright Press Association 2015

Published: Saturday 17th January 2015 by The News Editor

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