Women in Sport teamed up with Virgin Active to run The AttrActive Project, a programme of activity to empower girls aged 11-16 to become more active. Key to the project’s success was the involvement of the girls in designing, delivering and communicating their own physical activity programme in school.
Physical inactivity is a critical issue for girls, with damaging implications for the future health of the nation. The Health Survey for England 2012 showed that only 14% of 8-10 year old girls met the recommended guidelines for daily physical activity, and by 14 years of age this had dropped to only 8% – half the number of boys of the same age. The gender gap in physical activity starts at primary school, at the age of 8, and continues to widen through secondary school, with the key drop-off point at age 14.
Girls perceive more barriers to being active than girls. Key barriers include feeling self-conscious, not having anyone to be active with, and viewing other school work as being more important. For the least active girls the range of activities on offer is also a key barrier – 46% say they don’t like the activities they do in PE.
Over a 10 week period, we worked with 100 girls aged 11-16 from Handsworth Grange Community Sports College to:
- Co-create a programme of activity, driven by the girls and based on their thoughts and ideas about the physical activity that they want to do.
- Run a series of physical activity taster sessions to introduce the girls to appropriate Virgin Active classes and other sports such as football.
- Produce content including articles, video blogs, and interviews to promote the sessions to other girls in the school.
- Work with positive female role models including Virgin Active campaign ambassador Helen Skelton, local university volunteers, and Virgin Active instructors.
In only 10 weeks the project had a significant impact on the girls, particularly in building confidence and self-esteem:
- The proportion of girls taking part in physical activity for 60 minutes or more at least 3 times a week increased from 68% to 74%.
- 91% have been inspired to be more physically active as a result of being involved in the project.
- The number of girls who classify themselves as confident increased from 70% to 86%.
As a result of the partnership, Virgin Active were able to take key insights back into their business. This meant that they could better shape their products and services to meet the needs of women and girls, and have been able to improve staff training around inclusion with a view to addressing both perceived and real barriers to activeness.
“The enthusiasm around the day was amazing. I think really got brought back into the school, the girls were really buzzing. For one girl, it’s just changed her life. She’s been to every session. She’s more confident. She’s coming to more clubs. She’d have never done that before. I’ve seen a massive change in her”
Teacher, Handsworth Grange Community Sports College