To celebrate International Women’s Day 2021, we’ve been speaking to local girls and women about how being active benefits them and to hear how they overcome some common barriers to keeping active.

Monday March 8th is International Women’s Day, a global day with local relevance. It celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and every year it chooses a theme to focus thinking and action. 

Given the testing times that we have all recently faced it seems appropriate that the 2021 theme is #ChoosetoChallenge. At the Be Active team of the Health Improvement Commission, alongside our colleagues at the Guernsey Sports Commission, we have been reflecting on the challenges that women face in our area of interest, physical activity and sport, and we are sharing some stories with you that celebrate how girls and women from all parts of the Guernsey community have incorporated activity into their lives.

Activity levels and gender 

We are focusing on women and girls because in general, their activity levels across the world, remain lower than mens’. Local evidence shows how this is also the case in Guernsey.

The 2018 Guernsey and Alderney Wellbeing Survey which surveyed nearly 1000 local adults stated that: 

Some patterning of physical activity by age and gender was seen. On average women reported less activity than men across all age groups and this was particularly pronounced in the under–35s and the over–75s. In these groups higher proportions of women had not undertaken activity on any days compared to men in the same age groups.

Overcoming barriers 

We know that girls and women face particular barriers to being active. Research shows that these commonly include a lack of time, competing priorities such as childcare, fear of embarrassment/judgement, appearance concerns, confidence, knowing what to do, access to opportunities and cultural beliefs. 

And amongst secondary aged girls, in the Guernsey Young People’s Survey, when we asked what stopped them exercising as much as they might:

There are lots of reasons for not being physically active. But it’s important to remember that everyone is different, with different abilities, knowledge, interests, and free time. The key to success is doing an activity that works for you and choosing activities that you like to do that fit around real life.

Examples of benefits of Activity

The health and wellbeing benefits of activity are well-known and even a few minutes of exercise makes a difference. But don’t take our word for it. We’ve been speaking to local girls and women to understand how being active benefits them and to hear their tips on how they manage to squeeze keeping active into their busy lives.   

During the week following International Women’s Day, the Health Improvement Commission will post profiles of local women who are #ChoosetoChallenge by being active.   

Please help us to showcase these examples of local women and girls by sharing them and if you have a story to tell please contact us via our social media channels. 

First up is Debbie!

Leading active and sports-filled lives has always been important to my partner and I. However, over the last couple of years, since having children, our ability to dedicate as much time to doing the activities we would like to do has all but disappeared. Doing an activity for myself is no longer a priority, as time seems very difficult to come by.  This has definitely had a negative effect on my mental health. Life is always a rush and we are tired a lot of the time. As a way to try to fit some much-needed exercise, fresh air and head space into our routine, we bought an electric cargo bike and a single electric bike last summer. And quite honestly, they are two of the best purchases we have ever made.

I love the fact that we don’t use the car as much, and are therefore doing our small bit for the environment, that we can explore the lanes and green areas of Guernsey more, stopping easily to see animals and plants and to chat about these things. I can switch the electric off (or more realistically down!) to make more effort and get some exercise, but equally know I can get somewhere without breaking a sweat if needed!!

The girls love it. They can see the world at a slower pace, are much more aware of and interested in the environment around them and  they can see their parents being active, which will hopefully have the desired effect of encouraging them to live active, healthy lives.  We spend quality family time out on the bikes and you can’t ask for much more than that.

Admittedly, we haven’t used the bike as much in the winter, but I am going to try and stop beating myself up about this! Small steps!

Debbie Hunter, 38, mother of Edie, 4 and Kitty, 2