A group of girls sitting together in a leisure centre, smiling

Big Sister: breaking down barriers to activity for teen girls


1.3 million teenage girls who once considered themselves as ‘sporty’ are dropping out of exercise and activity after primary school.

But we know that given the right support and opportunities, teenage girls are motivated to take part in sport.

That’s why we created the Big Sister project, a programme created by girls, for girls, to support teenage girls to enjoy sport, exercise and physical activity during puberty.

Our Big Sister project has helped more than 3,000 teenage girls to get active, by offering free gym memberships and period products, as well as tailored workout sessions and advice.

Over the 10 month project, girls taking part made 55,000 visits to their local leisure centre, to take advantage of the gym, swimming pools and women-only workout sessions.

What did Big Sister achieve?

  • 3,000 girls supported to be active, resulting in 55,000 visits to participating leisure centres
  • 6 in 10 girls now enjoy sport more
  • 63% of girls are now more confident to try new things
  • 19,000 girls supported with free disposable and reusable period products from Hey Girls
I got to go swimming loads; we can’t afford to go out a lot but with Big Sister we could go all the time.
Grace, 11

How did it make girls feel?

Teenage girls who took part in Big Sister said they had increased:

  • Resilience (63%)
  • Confidence (62%)
  • Happiness (59%)

Big Sister, which launched in May 2022, offered free 3-month gym memberships to girls aged between 9-15 at Places Leisure centres in South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Norfolk. This gave girls unlimited use of the gym and swimming pool and access to female-only workout classes and virtual classes through the Places Locker app.

Alongside this, a digital hub provided an extensive range of resources, support and practical advice from 20 trained Big Sister peer mentors. 

Women in Sport CEO, Stephanie Hilborne OBE said: “Big Sister has bust the myth that somehow teenage girls are innately averse to exercise. We have proved that given the right opportunities, teenage girls will use gyms and pools and get involved in sport. But far too often girls don’t get that chance. 

“This is important. Teenage girls are in the midst of a mental health epidemic with anxiety running rife and we know that exercise can be an antidote.”

Big Sister Partners

We were joined by Places for People, its leisure provider Places Leisure and Hey Girls, a social enterprise dedicated to tackling period poverty, to enable girls to find out about the physical and emotional changes that happen during puberty whilst offering practical ways to get and stay active in supportive environments. 

To combat period poverty more than 19,000 girls were supported with free disposable and reusable period products and educational resources from Hey Girls, after Women in Sport research found 7 in 10 girls avoid sport while on their period.

We’re so grateful for our ambassadors (‘Big Sisters’) who helped shape this campaign to be supportive and understanding of what teenage girls experience during puberty.

  • 6 in 10 girls

    say they enjoy sport more after taking part

    Women in Sport

  • 3000 girls

    were supported through the Big Sister project

    Women in Sport

Download the report

Big Sister Impact Report (3.06 MB)

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The Big Sister Project

The Big Sister project was created to help girls discover the joy of sport, with a helping hand from teenage girls.