Exploring the menstrual cycle's impact on physical activity
More than four in five (84%) teenage girls say their interest in sport and fitness diminished after starting their period and almost one in four (23%) say they feel embarrassed to take part in physical activity during their menstrual cycle.
Despite this, the girls surveyed have a clear understanding of the benefits of sport and fitness, with 40% saying they have fun when taking part in activities and almost one-third (32%) know it has a positive impact on their mental health. Girls also have a desire to be good at sport and fitness and 16% admit to being jealous of peers who excel in the area.
The new research by Nuffield Health is based on a sample of 2,002 11-16-year-old girls and their parents and highlights how girls are more likely to report barriers to exercise than boys*, which is putting them at a huge disadvantage when it comes to their health, with a particularly concerning dropout rate due to periods.
Whilst 40% of girls say that health and fitness is important to them to look and feel good, almost one in five (17%) say they don’t like P.E in school. A further 44% of parents have also admitted to making an excuse to get their daughters out of P.E lessons.
There is evidence to show that this dropout from teenage girls can be seen in adulthood. Recent research from Nuffield Health’s Healthier Nation Index, reveals a quarter of all women (23%) claim that the menstrual cycle (including periods and symptoms of the menopause) is a barrier to undertaking more physical activity.
In addition to this, many women (45%) find gyms intimidating, over two-thirds (64%) think lack of motivation is a contributing factor and over a third (37%) surveyed believe that a general dislike of exercise is a barrier to them being more active.
Nuffield Health’s latest research also reveals one in three (30%) parents are not very active and a further 4% say they are completely inactive. Only 36% felt their level of physicality encouraged their daughters to exercise more than them.
In response to this data, Nuffield Health, the UK’s largest healthcare charity, has launched Move Together to get 11–16-year-old girls across the nation moving and more physically active.
The free programme is available in communities across the UK all year round and will tackle the barriers that young girls face when it comes to exercise and fitness.
TV Personality and Personal Trainer Chloe Madeley is supporting the Nuffield Health Move Together initiative this year and comments: “Being a personal trainer and a woman myself, I know the huge benefits exercise can have on girls’ lives, both now and continuously as they age.
“It’s critical that we start removing the barriers that so many young girls face in this country when it comes to being active and try to encourage them to move more, which can dramatically improve both their physical and mental health.
“We also need to start working to remove the stigma that surrounds talking openly and honestly about the menstrual cycle, not least because periods have been identified as one of the biggest barriers preventing girls from becoming more physically active.
“The sport and exercise landscape is still heavily skewed towards boys and men, and while it is changing, certainly from a sporting perspective, basic exercise should be far more encouraged than it is amongst young women. I want to ensure that when my daughter grows up, she and girls like her feel encouraged and inspired to move, use and appreciate their bodies.
“Move Together is an incredibly important initiative that will encourage and inspire young girls to be more active, especially as it’s completely free to access, which is so important at a time when so many families are struggling financially.”
Hannah Maxwell, Group Exercise Manager and Personal Trainer at Nuffield Health, said; “Our aim is to get young girls from all backgrounds moving and loving exercise in safe and confidence-boosting environments outside of the school curriculum.
“If we don’t start knocking down the barriers faced by so many young girls now, we run the risk of this continuing into their adult lives, which will have a negative impact on both their physical and mental health.
“Being active throughout the menstrual cycle can be challenging for many young girls, especially as their body responds differently at varying points in the cycle.
“I was never taught this as a young girl, or as PT, and it’s time we helped girls understand what’s happening to their bodies, so it’s easier for them to manage and be more active.
“We’re working hard to encourage and inspire young girls with a full range of activities they can do with their friends for free, in convenient, safe spaces that will encourage participation over the summer and beyond boosting overall wellbeing.”
Hosted in local parks and community venues and run by Nuffield Health fitness instructors in the local community, the specially designed free classes will build girls’ strength, confidence and get them moving. It’s also the perfect opportunity to have fun and make new friends in a safe and secure environment.
Get moving and sign up your 11-16yr old girl to Move Together with Nuffield Health today to join a FREE class click here.
Last updated Tuesday 18 July 2023
First published on Tuesday 18 July 2023