How can sports facilities remove the barriers for women to exercise?

The barriers for women exercising into menopause are high. Results from a recent ukactive guide has outlined the reasons that prevent women attending exercise facilities, what can be done do to remove these barriers?

How can sports facilities remove the barriers for women to exercise?

What are the barriers preventing women being physically active?

Menopause Movement welcomes the publication of a new and practical guide developed with the joint forces of ukactive, Sport England’s and ‘This Girl Can’ campaign!


The results of their survey gives fresh insight, guidance and tangible solutions to support fitness and leisure operators in getting more women and girls active within their facilities.


There is a persistent gender gap between the proportion of women and men who are achieving the Chief MedicalOfficer’s guidelines of physical activity, with women consistently reporting lower activity levels than men.


Since the coronavirus (Covid-19)pandemic hit, the situation for women has become worse. While initially, male activity levels fell more significantly they also recovered quicker, whereas female activity levels remained consistently lower than 12 months earlier. This indicates that, despite their activity levels initially seeming more resilient to the impact of the pandemic, women who have experienced their activity levels fall may take longer to recover and require further support to return.


Launched on the 10 November, the guide, called ‘How to improve your services for women and girls: As told by the 51%’, is designed to help gyms and leisure facilities to reduce the barriers experienced by many women and girls who would like to be more active – with the title reflecting the fact that women make up over half of the population.


The guide is based on a bespoke survey of 2,000 in September 2021 women and girls.It showed a desire from women to do more physical activity, with 57% of women stating that they intend to do more physical activity, 

They found that while many women and girls do positively engage in sport and physical activity within gyms and leisure facilities, many others do not, for a range of reasons.


Findings from the research by ukactive and This Girl Can are highlighted within the new guide and in a detailed supporting document, so that operators can act on the latest evidence from women and girls.


The reasons cited for not being active in gyms and leisure facilities included:


·      Fear of judgement from both men and women

·      Cost

·      Worries about personal safety

·      Knowledge about using equipment

·      Images used of women in marketing materials that are un-relatable and make women feel negative about themselves


The guide highlights the importance of increasing awareness of the overall health benefits of being active for a female audience and offers advice on robust policies to tackle personal safety fears.


It also includes case studies from operators in both the public and private sector that have implemented successful strategies to improve services for women and girls, from staff training and interaction, to flexible programming, specialist equipment introductions, and commitments to personal safety.


Menopause Movement is fully on board sharing this message and supporting the change, thank you for spreading the word with us.


Barriers preventing menopausal women exercising are in 6 key areas:


Practical issues:

Among all women, concerns include:

Not knowing what to wear/equipment to bring (18%)

Not knowing where to go on arrival(15%)

Centres will be difficult to access by transport (15%)


Staff knowledge:

Participation encouragement, among all women:

45% believe that having a member of staff showing

them how to perform exercises/activities and use

equipment would encourage participation

26% would like a member of staff to observe whether

they are performing activities correctly


Personal safety:

Risk and protection, among all women:

13% of all women are concerned about risk or threat of sexual

harassment, intimidation or embarrassment from sexual

harassment within a fitness and leisure centre

64% of those attending in last three years have taken measures

to protect themselves from


Ability and confidence:

Among all women, concerns include:

Not being fit enough (45%)

Not fitting in with other people taking part (24%)

14% of those not attending in last three years say it is due to not having ability

to be physically active and exercise in this setting


Body confidence and judgment:

Among all women, concerns include:

Showing my body (30%)

Being judged by other women (27%)

Changing in front of others (25%)


Affiliation with settings:

Reasons for non-attendance in last three years include:

I’m just not interested in exercising in this setting (29%)

Exercising in this setting isn’t for me(26%)

I wouldn’t feel comfortable exercising in this setting (22%)

I wouldn’t enjoy exercising in this setting (21%)

Our Menopause Movement Professional Development Training Programme includes the best information and guidance available for the benefit of women going into menopause. It's designed to build the confidence of health and fitness professionals and practitioners to treat, advise and support women with up-to-date, factual, evidence-backed guidance related to all aspects of changes associated with the menopause – physiological, anatomical, nutritional and psychological.

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