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New project to break down barriers to teenage girls exercising

A new programme designed to provide a supportive space for teenage girls has launched to help girls find the joy of sport and exercise during puberty.

Big Sister provides girls with a range of resources and support - created and shaped by other girls - to enable them to find out about the changes that happen to their bodies whilst offering ways to improve self-belief and wellbeing. Exercise can help to prevent numerous issues that affect the lives of girls and women, from anxiety and self-harm during the teenage years to osteoporosis that can plague women in later life.

Recent research found 43 per cent of teenage girls who once considered themselves sporty start to disengage from sport following primary school. To help to prevent girls from slipping into a lifetime of inactivity the Big Sister programme has formed partnerships with Places for People, its leisure provider Places Leisure and schools and community groups to help inspire girls to rediscover the joy of sport and activity through their local leisure centre. 

Teenage girls said there were many complex barriers that prevented them from being active: 

  • ‘A lot of girls are scared of looking stupid.’
  • ‘Periods can limit you going training as you’re in pain and uncomfortable.’
  • ‘Up until the age of about 16, I was not aware that sports bras existed and had just been wearing my normal bra for exercise. I wondered why after most sport practices my chest hurt a little.’
  • ‘If I don’t throw the ball properly, I’ll be judged and shouted at and put off by the boys’

As part of the programme teenage girls between 9 and 15-years-old are being offered a six-month free gym membership. The offer is available at Places Leisure centres in South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Norfolk. The membership includes unlimited use of the gym and swimming pool, a selection of group workout classes and free access to virtual classes and resources though the Places Leisure Locker App.

The Big Sister online digital hub - – offers free content, support and advice from peer mentors to help navigate the challenges of puberty. It also addresses the stigmas and gender stereotyping which can prevent girls from leading happy, healthy and active lives. 

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