Just 36% of girls aged 11-18 wear a sports bra when participating in PE or sport at school. This has a negative impact on their experience of sport, with more than two-thirds (69%) admitting they cannot jump or run about freely and 72% that they feel self-conscious about movement or bounce.
International activewear brand Stronger carried out the study in partnership with leading UK charity Women in Sport, to explore how girls feel about school sports kit.
Of the 1,000 secondary school girls questioned, 84% believe it’s essential to wear the right bra for sport and exercise, yet 6-in-10 girls opt to wear their ordinary bra during sport (57%). Not owning a sports bra (37%) and the expense of sports bras (19%) are among the reasons for not wearing one. A lack of knowledge and education about their changing bodies also plays a part, with 45% of girls admitting to not thinking about wearing a sports bra for PE.
However, when girls do wear a sports bra for exercise there is a significant increase in their
levels of comfort (80%), confidence (45%), and ability to run and jump without anxiety (46%).
Despite this, just 14% of girls report sports bras being on their school kit list.
Petition led by British boxer calls on UK Government to help
Providing affordable sports bras during adolescence would give girls a more positive experience during PE and sports lessons. 84% of girls say they would wear a sports bra if they were given one. In response to the study, rising-star boxer Fran Hennessy is leading a petition backed by Stronger and Women in Sport, which calls for the UK Government to subsidise sports kit, including bras, for girls from lower-income families.
The public is urged to help give girls the opportunity to experience the joy and freedom that sport brings by signing the Governmental petition here:
British boxer Fran Hennessy comments: “There are several reasons why it was important for me to support this campaign. I wear a sports bra almost daily, which I am lucky enough to be able to afford. It’s upsetting that many girls can’t, who have dreams of a professional sporting career. Sports bras are such an essential part of kit and they should be on all girls’ kit lists, no question. Without better access and education around sports bras, we could be
jeopardising girls’ sporting careers, as they won’t feel comfortable or confident enough to excel in their chosen sport at a young age.”
Stephanie Hilborne, CEO of Women in Sport, said: “Throughout their lives, girls are bombarded with messaging about how their bodies should look rather than about what their bodies can do. When girls then face female puberty and the onslaught of social media, the very least we should do is to ensure our girls have suitable, supportive clothing to move their bodies without fear of being judged or feeling pain.
“Girls belong in sport – for its physical benefits and as a powerful antidote to the anxiety and related illnesses that plague the lives of many teenage girls. By failing to provide girls with the right clothing we are perpetuating the exclusion of girls from sport. Schools should include sports bras on their uniform lists and give girls a voice and choice in the sports kit that is right for them, so they can enjoy the joy and freedom of sport and exercise.”
The research also found other items of PE kit can also make adolescent girls feel uncomfortable. Girls aged 15-18-years-old feel PE kit is not suitable to wear when having a period (69%), dislike wearing shorts or skorts (60%) and feel self-conscious (63%) in the required clothing. Girls also anecdotally reported that gendered school PE kits made them feel ‘sexualised’.
To support the project and help with British schoolgirls’ affordable access to sports kit, Stronger is providing a discount to its sports bras with the discount code SPORTBH-20.
Annica Rantala, CEO at Stronger, said: “The findings from this research are quite shocking. Girls in the UK already have so many societal and systematic barriers to sports, from grassroots level through to professional – so the lack of proper instruction by schools and availability of access to essential kit like sports bras is very sad. Our hope is that the Government will strongly consider supporting families that struggle to afford the right kit for their girls to make school sports the source of positive mental and physical wellbeing that it