The Impact of Covid-19 from the perspective of teenage girls


Our new research looks at the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on teenage girls’ lives and physical activity.

Half of the girls (51%) surveyed by Women in Sport were concerned that they were losing their fitness and 45% worried that it would be hard to get back into the habit of sport and exercise after the pandemic. Many have lost confidence in their sporting ability (41%) and many more are worried about being in large groups again (40%).

Teenage girls Isla and Eva share their thoughts on the past year…

Isla, 14: 2020 started out like any other year for me. I would go out on the weekends with my friends, go to school and play sport. Then suddenly, all of that was taken away. Schools closed and moved online. I didn’t see my friends for months and sports were all cancelled. I used to do netball training once a week, as well as a match on the weekend, and PE at school twice a week. I used to enjoy going to netball, so it was weird when I couldn’t.

Eva, 14: I enjoy many sports, but I guess my favourites have to be netball and athletics. I’m not very confident but when I am on that netball court, wow – I feel totally in control. I am part of a team and that gives me a real boost of confidence and a sense of belonging.

The loss of sport had a big impact on their lives…

Eva, 14 : Bang, lock down! My beloved sports are taken away from me, no more going to netball practice, playing with my team both in and out of school. No more athletics. And no more rock climbing. This left me feeling really deflated and wondering, how am I going to fill my time whilst maintaining my fitness levels. I wouldn’t be able to see my teammates or school friends. I realised sport is away for me to burn off my energy and gives me confidence to believe in myself.

Online exercise seemed exciting initially…

Teenage girl exercising at home.She is using a laptop and smartphone to communicate with friends on social media.

Isla, 14: My netball club didn’t start Zoom practises until around May. The hour was spent doing ball skills, with technical difficulties all the time. I never liked doing practices over Zoom, especially if it was cold outside. I missed my friends and seeing a small picture of them but not being able to talk to them made it worse I found. We also tried Zumba over Zoom for a while, but it didn’t work very well as the music had a delay.

Eva, 14 – I enjoy Zoom netball training but it’s not quite the same and I realise I am not particularly confident seeing myself on screen. Zoom has been a great tool and a way of keeping us all connected, but I am really looking forward to returning to the court.

Spending time with family mattered…

Loving mother and daughter embracing on hiking tour

Isla, 14: During lockdown, we went on a walk every day. As soon as I finished lessons, my mum and I went on a long walk around a nearby park pretty much every day. It was nice to take a break away from screens for a while, and the weather was unusually nice.

At the beginning of the summer holidays my dad suggested that my dad, my brother, and I should do Couch to 5K together. I liked that I could spend more time with my family during lockdown.

Eva, 14: During the drier days, you would find me in my garden, shooting with my netball post. My mum would come out and we would practice together, shooting and throwing the ball. It was great fun.  We would head down to the park and play frisbee as well.

But friendships were missed…

A teenage girl texts on her phone while lying on her bed.

Isla, 14: As well as the cancellation of sports, all the plans I had with my friends for birthdays or things to do during the summer holidays had to be scrapped. For months I didn’t see my friends except during online lessons or FaceTime. We started Zooming occasionally, but not very often. I missed them and I missed going out at the weekends. I didn’t see them in person until the very end of May, when we went and sat in my friend’s garden for her birthday. It was strange, as I couldn’t hug my friend to wish her a happy birthday.

Girls now recognise the value of being active…


Eva, 14: It is so true that if you are feeling a bit low or not particularly motivated, getting out for a regular walk does you the world of good. You feel so much more energised, I know I sleep better for getting plenty of exercise and it helps when I am feeling a bit grumpy.

So, it’s key those positive exercise habits are not lost…

Isla, 14: It’s given me a lot of time to reflect on this year. I have enjoyed going for walks and doing things that I otherwise wouldn’t have done. I’m excited to get back to sport, as it will bring a sense of normality back to daily life. However, I am quite nervous in case I have lost some of my motivation and stamina.

Eva, 14: I think if I hadn’t kept myself as busy and continued exercising the impact of Covid would have been far greater on me. Going forward it has made me realise how important keeping fit is for body and mind. I am slightly nervous about returning to school, netball, and orchestra because it has been such a long year away, but I know that whilst I may need to adapt slightly, it’s exciting. I want to be able to get on and enjoy life to the full.

Women in Sport is calling for more recognition of the essential importance of sport and exercise to girls and for increased guidance and support for teenage girls as they navigate their way back to activity and through the easing of restrictions.

For more insight and to read the full research report visit our Research Page