Eastleigh Borough Council is increasing female activity levels by running a year-long sports promotion campaign in partnership with This Girl Can.
The pandemic has seen activity levels for both men and women fall. But, according to research by UK Active and This Girl Can, while male activity levels at first fell more significantly, they recovered quicker, whereas female activity levels have remained consistently lower.
Eastleigh Borough Council in Hampshire is seeking to remedy that by running a year-long sports promotion campaign in partnership with This Girl Can.
The big launch to kick-start 2022
This Girl Can is a Sport England funded scheme that has been instrumental in encouraging women to become more active by challenging barriers and changing the way physical activity is presented over the past six years.
It provides funding, branded material and guidance on how to get women interested in physical activity. Eastleigh worked with This Girl Can back in in 2018 and with mounting concern about the impact of the pandemic on activity levels among women decided to apply for funding again.
The latest figures for the borough indicate that 20 percent of women do less than 30 minutes of physical activity a week. This Girl Can Eastleigh kicked off at the start of 2022 for women over the age of 16 who were doing less than the recommended level of activity.
The campaign began in January with a subsidised women-only Couch-to-5k programme. It is aimed at beginners, those who are inactive as well as new to running. It offers a friendly introduction to running through a programme of walking and jogging to build a full 5km run. The leaders gradually help participants to develop fitness, speed and distance in social groups. By the start of the year, it was already sold out.
There is also Boogie Bounce, which is targeted at those new to exercise classes. It is a friendly introduction that takes people through the basic technical elements of a fun trampoline exercise class and gradually develops fitness. The emphasis is on participation, enjoyment and a positive social atmosphere.
The final phase of the launch is an offer of discounted gym membership at Wyvern Sport and Fitness Centre.
Ahead of the launch women were invited to attend a live two-hour Mind Over Matter workshop. It included mindset techniques to overcome barriers preventing women from participating in physical activity and get you prepared for your This Girl Can Eastleigh activity.
Tailored campaigns for new mothers and over 50s
There are then two more phases to the programme planned. In the spring a series of activities will be launched for women who have had babies and then in the autumn a version for the over 50s.
Eastleigh Sports Project Officer Hannah Fredericks said: “We know women can sometimes lack the confidence to get active, especially after time away, so it is important to address key barriers and increase belonging and resilience.
“Women who have babies often do not know what is safe for them to do and what is available so we will be working with libraries, stay and play session leaders and health visitors to make sure they are aware of what support and activities are available in the local area. We are also going to work with a housing association to make sure we engage some of the harder-reach parts of the community.
“And we will be holding a festival to offer women taster sessions and introductions to the activities that are being offered.
The pandemic has got people and, in particular women, out of the habit of exercising. Our This Girl Can project can reverse that.
Creating a shared experience
Another key part of the programme of work will be encouraging shared experiences around getting more active. The council’s marketing and communications team is planning to develop a series of local stories which will be promoted to create a social movement around the year-long campaign.
Women who take part will be encouraged to explain their experiences of becoming active, the barriers they have had to overcome and the benefits they have gained. The videos and stories will be promoted on social media and through other channels.
Communications Officer Abby Roch said: “We want to create the sense of togetherness to build momentum around this – that is why the call to action is ‘Join the This Can Eastleigh Tribe’. We think it can really help get women active.”
Eastleigh Cabinet Member for Health Councillor Tonia Craig added: “As a council, we are committed to supporting health and wellbeing post pandemic.
This Girl Can Eastleigh proved a force in the borough and women can get behind it once again together to address barriers to getting active.
“The message from the fun, motivating and informal approach of This Girl Can Eastleigh is that there’s no ‘right’ way to get active. However, you jiggle, kick, lift, stretch, or sprint, it’s time to get moving in a way that suits you.”