Creating Inclusive Spaces For Women To Be Physically Active

Date: 8 March 2024   Author: Energise Me

According to Active Lives data, a quarter of the UK’s female population were classified as ‘inactive’ in 2021/22. Creating inclusive spaces is essential in ensuring women and girls feel comfortable participating in any form of physical activity.

Everyone deserves to reap the benefits of an active life. So, let’s take a look and see how we can make active environments more inclusive for women.

Understand challenges

To understand how to create more inclusive spaces for women, we must first understand the barriers that prevent them from taking part. 

1. Safety Concerns 

Women, especially while alone, often feel vulnerable to harassment, assault or intimidation when exercising outdoors. According to This Girl Can research, 46% of women say they change their outdoor exercise routine due to less daylight during the autumn and winter months. These fears can stop women partaking in physical activity altogether. 

2. Lack of Representation 

The underrepresentation of women in sports leadership roles, coaching positions, and recreational activities can make it difficult for women to see themselves in specific roles. According to Women In Sport research only 26% of board members in national governing bodies for sport in the UK are women, indicating a significant gender disparity in sports leadership positions. 

3. Cultural and Social Norms 

Research by the Women’s Sport Trust suggests that traditional gender norms and perceptions of femininity may contribute to women feeling less confident or welcome in certain sports or exercise settings.

Strategies for creating inclusive spaces

No matter what your role is, we all have a responsibility to address these challenges and create environments where women feel comfortable getting active. So, what can we do? 

Women-Only Spaces 

Introducing women-only hours in larger facilities or classes is a great way to include women in physical activity. It can provide women with a comfortable and supportive environment without feeling self-conscious or vulnerable. 

Raising Awareness 

Make sure you outline behavioural expectations in your facility and the reporting process if something doesn’t feel right. Educating both men and women about respectful behaviour, consent, and bystander intervention can help create a culture of respect and safety in physical activity settings. 

Promoting Diversity and Inclusion 

Encouraging diversity in sports leadership, coaching staff, and program participants can help create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for women of all backgrounds.

Examples of strategies

This Girl Can is a nation-wide campaign in the UK that encourages women of all ages and abilities to get active and participate in sports and physical activities. Launched by Sport England, it challenges traditional perceptions of women by celebrating real women and their diverse bodies, abilities, and fitness levels. Click here to see what This Girl Can did in 2023. 

Cycle Sisters is a UK-based organisation that supports Muslim women to cycle as a means of exercise, transportation, and empowerment. The initiative aims to break down barriers that Muslim women may face in participating in cycling activities, such as cultural norms or lack of access to appropriate clothing. 

Sisters in Sweat in India is a sport and wellness community for women by women. Through group workouts and community events, they aim to provide women with the support, motivation, and resources they need to lead active lifestyles.

Inspiring stories

Harjeet in Southampton brought Pilates to her Gurdwara so that local Sikh women could get active.

Isla was 16 when she first started coaching tennis. Growing up, there wasn’t anyone like her and she wants to change that for the next generation of young girls.

When war in Ukraine began, Alla and Dorota came together to host kundalini yoga sessions for female refugees so that they had a space safe to get active and aid their mental health.



This Girl Can resources and toolkits to help make physical activity more inclusive for girls and women.

Safer Spaces To Move resources including:

  • How to improve your services for women and girls: As told by the 51%
  • How to make your spaces safer for women: A call to action from the 51%

The Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee calls for kit and equipment for women and girls to be designed with their bodies in mind.

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