Research Report: Keeping Women Active in Winter - Barriers to Participation - Women In Sport

Research Report: Keeping Women Active in Winter – Barriers to Participation

Published 2017

“I was going to go out cycling if the weather was nice when I woke up. Which it wasn’t. I had shopping to do anyway and wasn’t feeling great so I couldn’t go”.  Cyclist, aged 34 from London

Women shaking hands before a football match


Participation in sport and physical activity declines in the colder, darker autumn and winter months.

This report outlines the barriers to women taking part in sport in the winter and how to tackle autumn/winter drop-out rates.

Report contents:

  • What happens to women and sport in the winter?
  • What do women say are the barriers?
  • Overcoming barriers.


  • Activity levels for both men and women decline in November, before dipping to the lowest level between December and February.
  • A higher proportion of women drop out compared to men.
  • The dropout rate from autumn to winter increases with age for women.


  • Bad weather and fewer daylight hours.
  • Motivational barriers (e.g. feeling tired or sluggish).
  • Cultural barriers (e.g. winter is seen as a time to spend indoors and family events become a priority).
  • Personal safety (e.g. being seen on the roads when its dark).


  • Tailor initiatives for winter months and track progress to heighten sense of achievement and offer clear incentives.
  • Build a social community.
  • Create or tap into social media to support and encourage participation.
  • Market the post-exercise ‘zing’ to help motivate women to stay active.
  • Keep sport and exercise part of the conversation in the lead up to Christmas.
  • Make it easy.


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