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MORE than 80% of girls surveyed in recent UK research stated that they will make a greater effort to find opportunities to be active when the Covid pandemic eases.

However, 45% admitted that they were worried they would not be able to return to previous levels of activity, 41% said they had lost confidence in their ability and 40% were worried about returning to large groups.

The research was conducted by the UK Women in Sport charity, with funding from Comic Relief and Sweaty Betty Foundation, and sought to understand the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on teenage girls and their ability to be active. OSS research from 2019 revealed that the drop-out of girls from all kinds of sport activity begins noticeably at age 11 in Scotland and declines at a faster rate than boys through the teenage years.

This latest research was conducted with girls aged 13-16 over two months across the UK, and included girls from a diverse background and both girls who were active and inactive prior to the pandemic. It also included a survey of 1500 girls, representative of the diversity of people in the UK. The study produced both positive and negative responses to Covid, with only 19% reporting doing more activity than prior to the pandemic. However, the vast majority of those surveyed (82%) stated that they would put more effort into being active when life returns to normal.

The research reported that lockdown has led girls to recognise the value of exercise for physical and mental health –

  • 52% of girls agreed that keeping fit and doing physical activity was more important than ever
  • 55% of girls said they felt being physically active made them happier
  • 54% said that it made them less stressed

Less positively, 74% of the girls surveyed by Women in Sport admitted they felt bored and 43% lonely through lockdown, affecting their mental and physical health, education, confidence and social relationships. Half of the girls (51%) were concerned that they were losing their fitness, 45% worried that it would be hard to get back into the habit of sport and exercise after the pandemic with confidence and returning to large groups being a concern for more than 40% of those surveyed.

Women in Sport have, as a result of the research, made three recommendations to help support teenage girls and enable and empower them to participate in sport activity over the next year. The OSS supports these calls of stakeholders in Scotland:

  • More opportunities to be provided both in and out of school for girls to take part in sport and physical activity that meets their needs
  • Action by local authorities to ensure outdoor spaces are safe and accessible to girls
  • Online exercise offers that meet girls’ needs