The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Teenage Girls' Lives and Physical Activity - Women In Sport

The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Teenage Girls’ Lives and Physical Activity

Published March 2021

Funded by Comic Relief & Sweaty Betty Foundation, this research looked to understand how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the lives of teenage girls and their relationship with sport and physical activity.

We conducted in-depth ethnographic research over a 2-month period with a group of girls aged 13-16 who were both active and less active before the pandemic and how their lives were affected. We also undertook a survey of 1,500 girls, representative of the diversity of people in the UK.

The research showed 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

Perhaps most critically 82% of girls say they will put more effort into being active when life returns to normal.

Less positively, 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%).

With this in mind, we have put together three recommendations which will ensure teenage girls are given the guidance and support they need as they navigate their way back to activity and through the easing of restrictions. 

We are calling for:

  • 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


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