Women’s’ Fear Of Being Judged
In January 2015 Sport England launched a marketing campaign to encourage more women to take up sport and physical exercise. Backed by celebrities such as Clare Balding, Dame Kelly Holmes and Sally Gunnell, the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign aims to appeal to women of all ages and sizes with slogans such as ‘I jiggle, therefore I am’, ‘Sweating like a pig, feeling like a fox’ and ‘Hot and not bothered’. Following research done by Sport England one of the main reasons women felt that sport was not for them was a fear of being judged for not being the right size, for being unfit and not possessing the right skills for the activity. Despite 75% of women between the ages of 14-40 saying they’d like to be more active by participating in sport and exercise, two million fewer women regularly participate than men.
The campaign is designed to tell all women that they needn’t feel that sport or exercise is an exclusive club that they are not good enough to join. By having real everyday women in the adverts we can all relate to them getting fit and looking powerful in the process.
With no doubt, interest in health, fitness, sport and exercise starts at a young age. If you are brought up in a ‘sporty’ household then that will certainly have an influence over your life choices in the future. Then you may find that some girls who are very sporty in school and have a skill or talent for a particular sport, when they leave, go to university, start work and perhaps have a family, the opportunities for continuing their sport of choice reduces. This lifestyle change may mean that they put on weight and they will certainly feel less fit and have lower confidence levels so the thought of going into the gym may be something they dread rather than look forward to. Some may have been active in their childhood but after their body changed shape at puberty and teenage embarrassment kicked, the active life stopped.
In the past, schools have compounded the issue by coveting those that are skilled and show promise within a certain sport. The drive to have the perfect team to win tournaments can be at great cost to those children that get ignored and left behind. It was those who were at great risk of being lost to sport and exercise for life. Schools have now been urged to add female friendly exercise classes such as Zumba and rollerblading to the curriculum instead of the normal PE lessons. They are also being encouraged and supported by the This Girl Can campaign. If young girls loose interest in sport and fitness at a young age then the chances of them getting back to it at a later age are slim. This is then passed on through the generations with detrimental effects on not just their own but their future children’s health too.
This is aggravated by the fact obesity is on the rise. Low self-esteem is often cited as one of the main causes of over eating or comfort eating. A vicious circle begins and the chances of these women walking through the doors of their local Cambridge or Northampton gym are very low. Changing this cycle involves a several pronged approach starting with children in schools. With the right kind of encouragement, getting an early interest in sport and exercise, followed by positive, ‘normal’ imagery and messaging in the media via campaigns similar to the ‘This Girl Can’ from Sport England will start to make the difference. Supporting parents to change their lifestyles with information about food and nutrition to encouraging healthy family activities will help imbed a love of fun activity for life.