Sport England’s joyful This Girl Can campaign has encouraged 2.8 million more women to jiggle, sweat (and pedal!) their way to fitness since its launch in 2015. Last week saw the first screening of the new campaign, and Adele Mitchell was invited along to see it.


It’s not often, as a cycling journalist, that you are invited to BAFTA. But last Friday I headed up to its cinema in Piccadilly for the screening of the new This Girl Can campaign. It is awesome – as is BAFTA, where even the toilets are glamourous.

The launch brought together women from throughout the UK who appear in the campaign, as well as the media team behind it, and representatives from Sport England – so there was no shortage of inspiring people to talk to, and fascinating stories to hear.

The new campaign takes on some of the key barriers to exercise for women – including age, disability, pregnancy, and the demands of parenting.

Ahead of the screening, we heard about the success of the original campaign. It was the first initiative of its kind to celebrate women of all shapes, sizes and levels of abilities ‘in all their sweaty, jiggly glory.’ It has had 97 million views to date - and 2.8 million more women are participating in an active lifestyle as a result of it. But while the gender gap in exercise may be smaller as a result, it hasn’t gone away - the Active Lives survey indicates that fewer women (59%) than men (63%) are active enough to meet CMO guidelines of 150 minutes or more of moderate intensity activity in a week, and that inactivity increases with age.

So the new campaign takes on some of the key barriers to exercise for women – including age, disability, pregnancy, and the demands of parenting. I was particularly pleased to see this shift, as I’d spoken out about the exclusion of older women in the original campaign. We are a group that is largely invisible in the media, despite there being so many active older women out there. I believe that inclusion not only acknowledges those who do work out, but also encourages other women of all ages to see exercise as a life long option, and something that we can all take part in.

Another key message from the campaign (and one which I also wholeheartedly agree with!) is that it’s not realistic to expect to be super fit all the time. “It’s OK to take a break, to have a week off, to walk not run,” says Sport England CEO, Jenny Price. “ No-one is saying this to us. Few magazines say it; sports brands don’t say it."

Many of the women we’ve featured talk about stopping, then starting again. It can feel like the hardest thing in the world to return after a few weeks off, when you fear you’ve lost ground or fitness, but we want to surface this as a discussion point, to say it’s normal to take a break, but that needn’t stop you for good.’’

Watch the film

The film itself features women participating in a variety of sports with a reading of Maya Angelou’s poem Phenomenal Women, voiced by the writer herself.

Cycling isn’t featured in the film, but it does have a starring role in the campaign posters, including a great image of a pregnant cyclist. Franny, who is the women in the image, was unable to attend the launch as she has recently given birth – to twin girls. Grace, who appeared in the original campaign as the ‘slow cyclist’, was on stage during the presentation though, and commented ‘It’s so nice to see the difference the campaign is making, and being part of it has been really inspiring.” She has also become a little bit famous too “People toot their horns when they see me – but only when I’m on my bike!”.

For more about This Girl Can, go to thisgirlcan.co.uk where you can find out about the women in the campaign, get tips on how to get active and join the national debate or follow This Girl Can on Facebook or Twitter.