Sweat in the City

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					Sweat in the City

How 2000 young women discovered the positive power of exercise

Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation

3rd Floor, Victoria House, Bloomsbury Square, London WC1B 4SE Tel: 020 7273 1740 Email: insight@wsff.org.uk www.wsff.org.uk
Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered in England No. 3075681. Registered charity No. 1060267

Contents
Introduction 1 Standing start: why activity is unattractive to young women 2 Shaping an attractive proposition: the key elements of Sweat in the City 3 Success! Making a positive impact to mind and body 4 Providing a platform for the future 5 Passing on the baton: lessons for sport and fitness deliverers The last word Appendix

Introduction

ipants partic 8% of d 8
Key elements of the programme were personal mentoring and opportunities to ‘meet’ other participants through group sessions and via the SitC website. The young women were successfully recruited with the help of a feminine brand and celebrity ambassadors who fronted a tailored PR campaign. All that was asked in return was for the women to share their highs, lows, aches and pains with us through surveys, focus groups and online diaries. The results surpassed even our highest hopes: • Six months after completing the programme, 72% of participants are more active than they were before • Before the programme, 63% of participants were worried about what they looked like when they exercised. This dropped to just under half • Three-quarters of the young women now have increased confidence to go on and try new activities

s reminde at ‘SitC ha agreed th be active’ it feels to ow good me h
• 88% of participants agreed that ‘SitC has reminded me how good it feels to be active’

Sweat in the City (SitC) was an innovative research project designed to win a better understanding of how to motivate women to become more active. Today, 16 year-old girls leave school half as active as their male counterparts, often with a negative attitude to sport and fitness and with critically low levels of confidence. This programme set out to create a fitness experience that would appeal to this audience, change their attitude to exercise and lead to a more active and healthier way of life. SitC was designed and delivered by a partnership between the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) and the Fitness Industry Association (FIA). Two thousand inactive 16 to 24 year-old women in London were offered a three month gym membership at locations across the capital.

Why SitC is of value
SitC demonstrated that if sport and exercise is designed and delivered appropriately, then young women will take part. Just a short kick start can lead to sustainable behaviour change, leaving newly active women fitter, happier and healthier as a result. At a time of deep concern about growing obesity levels, and given the Government’s pledge to get two million people more active by 2012, we think this project will be of value to a number of key audiences. Unique market insight: For anyone interested in deepening their knowledge of the women’s market for sport and exercise, SitC provides a rare and powerful insight into what motivates – and demotivates – this group of young people.

“There is no way that I am giving exercise up again now, I feel so much better in myself – better mood, lots more energy etc. Even though I don’t always want to go to the gym, I know I’ll feel so much better once I’ve actually been!”

Pointers for project delivery: All those who deliver physical activity, whether in the fitness sector or in sport, want to attract new participants. For publicly funded deliverers, many of them are required to grow the numbers of women participating. This report gives useful pointers to deliverers to help them reach this audience. Guidance for policy-makers: Women are a priority audience for policymakers engaged in trying to grow participation in sport and exercise. Young women are particularly important, not just because it is at this age that the gender gap is greatest, but also because if we can reach this audience, we can change their exercise habits for a life-time and have a positive influence on their future families too.

SitC shows that with minimal investment, but with careful programme design and implementation, exercise can be made to work for young women. And we know this audience presents a unique opportunity: future forecasting has shown that if we can keep young women as active when they leave school as they were in school we could achieve an overall uplift in women’s participation of 16% by 2017 – surpassing all the Government targets. We would like to see this programme, and its recommendations, delivered on a much bigger scale so other young women can discover the positive power of exercise too.

1

Standing start: why activity is unattractive to young women
For those women who left school still enjoying sport, practical barriers often meant it was difficult for them to retain their passions. In particular, the women mentioned the difficulty of organising team sports out of the school environment. Participants described how men seem to find it easier to turn up and play casual football in the park, whilst it is much harder to organise a group of women to play hockey or netball in a casual but regular way. PE at school too often fails to please Participants had varying experiences of physical activity. Some had taken part in exercise at school and enjoyed it but then dropped out when they left school or university. Others disengaged much earlier. School left a lasting impression with participants describing how PE had tainted their view about sport and fitness generally. Many women who described themselves as not sporty felt they were the last in line, with teachers focusing on their ‘sporty’ classmates. There was a sense that you were either ‘sporty’ or ‘brainy’ and that you made that choice early in your school career – and you definitely couldn’t be both. Consistently, the participants talked about the embarrassment and lack of privacy in school changing rooms, and the ‘horrible’ PE kits. This bears out recent WSFF research that found 23% of women say school PE put them off activity for life. Critically low levels of self-confidence 63% of SitC participants agreed that ‘I worry about what I look like when I do sport or am physically active in front of other people’. Self-consciousness results in many women rejecting activity completely. Many participants described having to get over the hurdle of how they feel about their own bodies just to apply for the programme. “Ok so I haven’t been happy with myself for a while now because of the way I look and the way other people look at me.” Even if the first hurdle is crossed and a decision is made to try out exercise, then the issue of being watched and ‘judged’ by others kicks in. Many women spoke of not wanting to be seen sweating while exercising or worrying they weren’t ‘doing it right’. “I am the only person there whose face turns red and when I say red I mean red. So I wobble along, get wicked sweaty, worry about cellulite being visible even with lycra.”

Nationally, women’s participation today is in crisis: less than one in five women (19%) do enough exercise to benefit their health. While the difference in women’s and men’s participation overall is only 6%, the gender gap is widest among the youngest age group: from the age of 11, girls’ participation starts to drop off. By the time they leave school, young women are almost half as active as their male counterparts. In London the challenge is even greater: trailing Yorkshire, the capital’s young women are the second least active in the country.

What stops young women from participating?
Broadly, there are two different types of barrier to participation: practical barriers and psychological barriers. Practical barriers include the types of activity available, cost of participation and flexibility of timing. The psychological barriers include low body confidence and a belief that sporty, or even fit, women are neither feminine nor aspirational. SitC participants put these issues into their own words: Practicalities get in the way The SitC women were in the midst of a busy period in their lives. Whether starting a new job, continuing their education, or starting a new relationship, sport and activity often becomes a victim of a lack of time or money.

33% Participants who went alone (233) 32% 3 times a week or more Once a fortnight or less often The findings show that a lack of confidence will affect what a woman is prepared to try, when she will exercise and who she will exercise near. It is an issue which translates across all exercise in all spaces. This fear of being watched can prevent women from taking part in activities where there are other people around – for example jogging on the street or in a park. For some, the anonymity of the public space is enough to put them at ease, while others don’t want anyone to see them. “I have a friend who is a member of the same gym, and I knew that she was going to a class tonight and I didn’t especially want to bump into her whilst I was sweating my arse off…” 1-2 times a week Never 42%

53%

14%

Pre SitC Post SitC 16%

21% 33%

42%

25%

The gym is not for people like me Pre SitC 4% Post SitC 4% Health messages don’t cut any ice Most participants were aware of the endorphins created by being active, but feeling better in the mind was really only mentioned as a benefit of losing weight or toning up, not as motivation to be active in itself. “My ultimate goal is to get fitter and toned... and obviously that will make me feel happier.” Health messages that are reported in the media seem to be understood and acknowledged. The women on the programme appreciated that there were things they should do – eat better, exercise more, smoke and drink less – to improve their long-term health. However, as young women at the start of their lives, making a decision to exercise purely for long-term health gains seems very low down on their priorities; they are living for the here and now. Unless there is an immediate (and obvious physical) benefit of healthier behaviours – such as weight loss and being ‘sexier’ – it is hard for them to consider it urgent. 21% 8%

Main reason for joining SitC
I want to lose weight 39% I want to try new things 20% I want to live a healthier lifestyle 13% I want to make new friends 8% My friends/family thought it was a good idea 8%

Sport and exercise is fun Delivery needs to be carefully tailored 18% Pre SitC to meet women’s needs Post speaking to this audience of young 41% FromSitC women, it Ibecomes clearbody much sport don’t like my that and fitness as it is currently designed and delivered does not meet their25% needs. From Pre SitC their practical requirements, to the deep-rooted 18% 33% Post SitC and widespread cultural and psychological Agree strongly Agree barriers, any new activity is going to have to slightly be very carefully tailored if it is going to attract their interest and involvement.

48% 46%

42%

What will encourage them to want to take part?
So what would make a previously inactive woman finally decide to make a change and take a step to overcome these barriers? We asked SitC participants what it was that convinced them to take the first step to fitness. Young women are driven by how they look Everyone needs a reason to exercise – be it for enjoyment, fun, to get fit or tone up. For SitC participants those goals tended to centre on their appearance.

Base: Pre-programme survey. All respondents (1602)

The most popular reason for joining SitC was to lose weight. In doing this they believe they will feel sexier, look better in clothes and be more confident. Some women admitted to feeling pressure to look good in front of their partners. Certainly many sense competition with their peers to be the slimmest. “… if you’re on a night out and a lot of your friends are smaller than you then you don’t feel great about yourself. If (men) are going up to your friends a lot more than going up to you, that’s pretty depressing… so it’s a vanity thing.”

Other WSFF research underscores the importance of appearance for young women: a third of 16 to 24 year olds and half of 25 to 34 year olds think it is more important to be thin than healthy. While programme participants later went on to report higher satisfaction levels with how they felt, rather than how they looked post programme, the motivation to get involved was all about appearance.

is the What body deal i ape? sh
A size zero is not the ideal, but conversely, many don’t want to ‘bulk up’
SitC participants had very clear ideas of what they see as attractive and ‘normal’. A size zero is not desired, but conversely many don’t want to ‘bulk up’ and look overly-muscular as this isn’t considered attractive (and ultimately feminine). There are certain celebrities and athletes whose bodies are admired (including dancers, such as Britney Spears, and tennis players) but there are other ‘looks’ that aren’t admired – bulky arm muscles, basketball players or marathon runners. These views influence the participant’s choice of exercise, with many women shying away from the weights area. This may have the impact of women missing out on weightbearing exercises that could help with fat burning, toning and reduce the likelihood of osteoporosis.

2

Shaping an attractive proposition: the key elements of Sweat in the City
ii) Help in overcoming the practical barriers
Affordable Many studies have shown that practical barriers such as cost and inconvenience are some of the main reasons for women’s low participation. Removing these practical barriers (whether real or perceived) was therefore integral to the concept of the scheme. Whilst free membership is not a long term sustainable option, it was hoped that the programme and its associated offers would entice the young women to give physical activity a go, and through a positive experience convince them of the benefits of regular exercise. Easy to register It was important to make the registration mechanic as simple as possible. To be selected for the programme, the women logged onto www.sweatinthecity.co.uk and registered their details (name, address, age, current activity levels and whether already a member of a gym). The process allowed participants to list three preferred choices of gym. Virtually all the participants (96%) found this a very easy process. This process was successful – 84% of women were allocated their first choice gym, with a further 6% being given their second choice gym.
1 While a gym is just one aspect of a leisure centre (leisure centres can have pools, classes and gym spaces) the term is commonly used to refer to the whole leisure centre, and this is how it is being used in this report.

Sport and exercise is still often delivered with a one-size fits all approach. As described, WSFF used SitC as an opportunity to ask participants what they actually want from sport and exercise that would entice them to get involved, and hopefully stay involved. The following elements emerged as key: i) Appropriate activity ii) Help in overcoming the practical barriers iii) An aspirational brand and tone iv) A social and supportive environment v) A warm welcome and high quality customer care

Easy to get to Key to the offer was providing enough places in enough locations, so that each participant could choose a gym that was convenient for them to get to. 101 different clubs joined the programme, spanning 31 of the 33 London boroughs (except Bexley and Newham) offering a total of 2213 places. Almost three in five sites were private sector gyms, with the rest made up of public sector sites and charities/trusts. Fitness First was the largest private sector chain involved, making up a third of all centres. While the programme was predominately gym based, British Military Fitness (BMF) and Superchick, which both run park-based exercise sessions were also involved. BMF is based at a number of parks across London and it offered 90 spaces across three sites. Superchick offered up 19 spaces across its two sites.

i) Appropriate activity
The gym: an ideal setting The gym1 is already high on the list of things that women do, and unlike many sports, has an equal participation base of men and women. As it provides a wide selection of exercise opportunities from swimming, to weights, to machines to classes, the gym suits people with a variety of interests. Nor do gym-based workouts require the same level of technical skill or understanding of complicated rules and regulations as some sports, and allow inexperienced women to develop skills at their own pace. Often the gym is an entry point into more formal or team based activities, as we discovered by following the journey of some of our participants.

iii) An aspirational brand and tone
‘Sweat in the City’ the brand was an important tool to engage young women. Borrowing from the iconic American drama Sex and the City the programme’s identity was immediately feminine, fashionable and fun – qualities women don’t usually associate with exercise. Many of the women on the programme felt that the brand and tone of voice emphasised that the programme was ‘for them’ and they expected SitC participants to be “enjoying watching Sex and the City with a glass of wine!”. The associated website and logo design with the skyline and active women was created to strengthen the brand.

a) A dedicated website www.sweatinthecity.co.uk acted as a social hub where women could learn about the programme and register for membership. The women also had the opportunity to create an online profile (similar to Facebook), e-mail other participants, keep an online diary and upload photographs. Participants enjoyed the fact they could log their journey and collectively wrote a total of 857 diary entries. Around half the women surveyed used at least one of the above community elements of the website - keeping a diary (28%) and/or keeping a personal profile (27%). 41% said that the diary element was the most useful. The diary element served two purposes – for women to use it as a motivational tool and track progress, and for the SitC team to learn about the highs and lows. Some found that reading other diaries was beneficial to know that others felt the same way as they do. Competitions helped response rates – the winning entry to ‘What Sweat in the City meant to you’ is included in this report.

b) A programme mentor Having a dedicated mentor was really appreciated by the SitC participants. She was available to answer queries by phone or by email and would e-mail the women once a week with motivational messages, detail any free activities they could try and offer competitions. In the focus groups, participants described how the regular contact enabled them to feel part of a team. The mentor was the women’s day to day contact and she sent all communications (including regular bulletins). The personal touch of a named mentor was seen as a positive aspect of the programme. • 74% of women agreed that if they had any problems they knew where to go to find help • 77% felt supported by the SitC team c) Group exercise classes The SitC programme ran fortnightly specially designed group sessions to enable the women to meet their fellow participants and to have the chance to try a variety of different activities, all within a supported friendly environment. Each gym was asked to find a time slot during the week to run the classes. The instructors were paid through SitC and asked to use a bespoke training programme (created by FITPRO). Because of packed gym schedules these classes often had to run at unpopular times, often during office hours, and therefore had a mixed attendance record.

For those who did attend, 61% said they enjoyed them and three quarters found the instructor supportive. In particular, those who attended group sessions were far more likely to say that ‘SitC has given me the confidence to try new activities in the future’ showing the positive impact facilitated sessions can have on confidence. “Out of all the visits to the gym, I most definitely liked this class the best. I think the class was well thought-out because we cooled down properly.” Less formally, the programme enabled participants to exercise with their friends, or make new friends and create their own support network. While some women said they prefer to exercise alone “turn on their ipods and go into their own world”, other SitC women found a number of advantages to working out with friends or other gym members.

v) A warm welcome and high quality customer care
Absolutely critical to the success of this programme was to ensure the participants received a warm welcome when they arrived at the gyms, and that they continued to experience high quality customer care. For novices, just walking through the door can be a daunting experience.

“I was slightly nervous, when it comes to gyms I am always scared of being surrounded by a million and one superfit people running at 200 mph and not even breaking a sweat. So yesterday was a revelation for me – the gym isn’t scary!” The research shows how incredibly important the first experience is. If this first visit does not reach expectations, a potential new recruit can be lost forever.

iv) A social and supportive environment
A crucial element of SitC was to ensure the women felt supported throughout the programme. This was provided in three ways. a) A dedicated website b) A programme mentor c) Group exercise classes

Nine in ten women found the mentor helpful

“I have always thought of Fitness First as being the beautiful people’s gym, where anyone over a size zero would be looked upon and banished to a fat peoples room. I was happy to say that no one gave a damn that me and my wobbly bits were bopping up and down on a ski machine, nor was a eye lid fluttered at my bingo wings going like the clappers on a treadmill – so all in all a very enjoyable session.”

a) A useful and timely induction Gym inductions play a vital role in ensuring participants are confident in using a full range of equipment and trying a variety of different exercises. When inductions are not delivered, or are not managed well, an important opportunity to influence a woman’s core confidence is lost.

For some, this may make the difference between coming back to the gym or not. For others it may restrict the range of facilities they feel comfortable using. For example, many SitC women wouldn’t use weights or machines because they felt that they didn’t know what they were doing and didn’t want to look stupid in front of other gym users.

“Even though I had an induction I really didn’t remember how to use any of the machines!! I tried to figure it out but it seemed so complicated. In the end a guy felt sorry for me or rather laughed at me and then helped me.” b) Friendly and available staff The staff members’ attitude, friendliness and professionalism can have a big influence on how a woman experiences the gym and whether she will sustain activity. One in nine women who didn’t go to the gym as often as they had planned said it was because of staff and communication issues (the third most common reason given after time and distance to travel).

Good instructors can play a major role in boosting confidence and encouraging sustainability. Friendly and welcoming staff will help to make women feel like they fit in. “There is one particular personal trainer that is just super fab. He has threatened to teach us things that no one else would teach us. He actually remembers my name which is embarrassing as I can’t remember his name and he is always encouraging me and always takes the time to offer a quick word of wisdom.” So, having put all these elements in place, what results did SitC achieve?

t has ity Wha the C eat in t to you? Sw mean
For me, going to the gym was a bit of ‘me’ time carved into my day.
But since moving to London, I didn’t feel safe running outside and found myself bottling up the frustration and stress that resulted from work and my relationships. I was also really missing my family, who live more than 4,000 miles away. I ate more and worked out less. Looking in the mirror made me cry and I felt trapped by how I felt. Since starting Sweat in the City, I went to the gym as often as I could and really enjoyed going. I also noticed a big change in my attitude and how much more relaxed I became in general. For me, going to the gym was a bit of “me” time carved into my day. I realised that I had been giving so much to other people: my work, my friends, my boyfriend, that I didn’t have any time left for myself. And that was what ultimately left me feeling stressed. “I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of Sweat in the City. I remember reading about the scheme on one of my favourite celebrity gossip sites, FabSugarUK, and thinking what a great idea it was. At that time, I was really unhappy about a lot of things in my life – I hated where I lived, was facing a lot of pressure from work, feeling crappy about my body and even my fouryear relationship with my boyfriend was beginning to struggle. What a lot of people don’t know about me (and something I don’t talk about much) is how I struggled with clinical depression about five years ago. Around the time Sweat In the City started, I was feeling really low and started to panic about the direction my life was taking. Exercise used to be a daily part of my routine and I even ran a 5k last year. Another benefit of visiting the gym for free, was that I didn’t feel any pressure to go – but strangely, that made me want to go even more. I left the gym on many days feeling much better and confident about myself – something that was really life changing. I don’t want to sound clichéd or cheesy, but since I started Sweat in the City, I no longer dreaded going out on Friday or Saturday nights. I had way more energy and felt so much better about my body that I didn’t mind showing it off anymore. And that made a huge difference. After joining in the New Year, I really hope to take some group classes in addition to my individual workouts. So I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone involved in this programme for affording me this amazing opportunity. I’ve really rediscovered my spark for life through this programme.”

3

Time constraints 56%

67%

Public sector gym Private sector gym

Success! 20% Too far to travel Making a12% positive impact to mind and body
i) Becoming – and staying – active
First and foremost, participants significantly increased their activity levels. During the programme seven in ten women surveyed were going to the gym at least once a week, and a third were reaching the recommended weekly guidelines. A week after completing the programme, nearly nine in ten of those who took part said they intend to stay active (86%), and crucially, six months on, seven in ten (72%) participants are more active than they were previously. gym Private sector

Regularly attended SitC group classes

Didn’t attend SitC group classes Worked out on own

7% Illness Those selected to take part in the SitC 9% programme were not active enough to maintain their health – defined by taking 2% part in Staff rude/poorminutes of exercise a at least 3 x 30 week. Many of the recruits were completely 7% inactive. Only 5% said they enjoyed being active, and two thirds (63%) told us they were 4% Lack of motivation self-conscious and worried about what they 6% looked like while exercising. So what changed for these women as a result of taking part in 2% the programme? Weather/dark 7% Public sector gym

71% of the Worked out with friends women surveyed went to the gym at least once a week

Average number of times attended gym throughout SitC
All participants 29% Participants who went to gym with friends (79) 33% Participants who went alone (233) 32% 3 times a week or more Once a fortnight or less often 1-2 times a week Never 42% 25% 53% 14% 41% 22% 8%

A prize winning entry to the ‘What has Sweat in the City meant to you’ competition.

I want to lose weight

35% Agree strongly Agree slightly

39%

All participants 29% who went to gym body confidence ii) Shaping up and improving Participantsiii) Increasing with friends (79) fitness levels 33% One of the most powerful findings from this 41% 22% 8%

Positive shifts in attitudes
I worry about what I look like when I do sport and activity in front of other people Pre SitC Post SitC Pre SitC 4% Post SitC 4% 16% The gym is not for people like me 21% 8% 21% 33% 42%

The programme demonstrates the role that exercise can play53% in improving 14% a woman’s confidence about herself. Given how many programme is the difference exercise can As well as participation increasing, many of Participants who went alone (233) women lack body confidence, it is ironic 44% that 25% 30% the women also improvedPublicoverall fitness. their sector gym (126) make to how many women feel about their so many reject the one thing that can make 42% 25% 16% 32% As these examples show, for some this was a (191) bodies: Prior to SitC almost seven in ten 32% Private sector gym them feel better. This project shows that 51% if Post great achievement in itself, while for others it was women (67%) didn’t like their bodies. a week women can be encouraged to feel confident 1-2 times 3 times a week or more 24% 39% 37% really valued onlyattended SitC looking classes (46) the programme, this had declined to just Regularly as a route to group better. enough to start exercising, then the experience Once ahalf (a drop of 16 percentage points). fortnight or less often Never 20% 30% of being active actually makes them feel 50% much “Chuffed today as I doubled my classes (46) Didn’t attend SitC group better about themselves. Following the programme, the women also running time yay it’s still not huge 19% 52% to but considering the Worked out on own (233) worried less about how they come across 30% year I’ve had it’s others – prior to SitC, 63% of women agreed progress :) So my fitness is improving... 24% 38% 38% Worked out with friends (79) that ‘I worry about what I look like when I do now I just need to see a difference in I want to lose weight often sport or am physically active in front of other Less often my appearance and weight!” More About the same people’ after SitC this had declined to 49%. 39% “I am really upping the amount I work out, and the levels I do each time. I want to try new things Exciting stuff! I see my stomach feels 20% flatter and my thighs seem to me more toned, but maybe it’s just an effect of I want to live a healthier lifestyle feeling generally more positive about SitC reminded me how good it feels to be active 13% my body image now.” 30% 58% As a result, for some, if they didn’t see Iawant to make new friends SitC has given me the jolt I need to get active again change in their shape, or if the weight was 8% slow to come off, then they did become 35% 47% disheartened and unmotivated. My friends/family thought it was a good idea SitC has given me the confidence to try new activities in the future 8% “Not only had I not lost a single pound 35% 39% since my measurement of myself towards the beginning of Sweat in the Agree strongly Agree slightly City (which was bad enough believe me), I had put ON a quarter of a stone. This is so unbelievably disheartening it’s untrue.”

Sport and exercise is fun Pre SitC Post SitC I don’t like my body Pre SitC Post SitC 18% Agree strongly Agree slightly 25% 33% 42% 18% 41% 48% 46%

Making a positive impact

iv) Healthy choices
Feeling better rippled across other aspects of the participants’ lives resulting in an increase in energy levels and a commitment to healthier living. Being active in the gym fostered other active behaviours, from having increased energy to walk to school or work, to taking the decision to walk up the tube escalators. “What I have always experienced at this time of year is a slow and lacklustre feeling, is now a much more energised, vitalised and happy state.”

Their resolution around diet and bad habits firmed up too with the women better able to make healthy choices. Some even said that they had managed to give up smoking. “But I do know that when I was in a regular routine of going to the gym, my whole life and outlook changed. I automatically ate better foods (yes, there was even some greenery in there), I had far more energy and my moods were a lot better.”

Some of the physical benefits of regular exercise came as a (welcome) surprise to many women. These included improved balance, co-ordination and improving old injuries. “I have managed to get my blood pressure down, improve my asthma, strengthen my back muscles from a slipped disk when I was 16, and lose weight. My doctor is proud of me, and I’m proud too.”

Prior to SitC almost seven in ten women (67%) didn’t like their bodies
I worry about what I look like when I do sport and activity in front of other people Pre SitC 21% 42%

v) The feel-good factor
The positive benefits of SitC extend well beyond just toning up or noticing an increased level of fitness. In fact, many of the benefits described by our newly active participants were in the mind rather than the body. For women whose previous experience of activity and sport is often a negative one, the realisation that getting out and getting fit feels good both physically and mentally is very important. Without the positive associations around increased energy and feeling good, exercise and the gym can become all about negative body image and negative associations.

vi) Willingness to try new things
Many participants experienced a growing confidence to try new activities. Prior to the programme a quarter of women felt that gyms ‘are not for them’. By the end of the programme only 13% agreed. “I feel more confident when confronted with sporting situations. I also feel like I could escape more easily from a dangerous situation, which is something that I am very pleased about!” The opportunity to try out the gym – without being tied in – was useful in removing previous prejudices. Confidence also grew around trying different forms of exercise. The number of women confident about attending an aerobics class trebled, as did the numbers who felt confident to use machines. It also prompted participants to review other preconceptions about sport or activity in general. “My confidence has grown and I feel like I could fit into a place like a gym.” “... it’s defeated a lot of prejudice I’ve had about gyms and their members.”

The number of participants who said they ‘really enjoyed sport and exercise’ increased six-fold from start to end of the programme

Problems that SitC failed to tackle fully
Expectations need to be managed when introducing this level of activity. Participants entered the programme with great enthusiasm, and huge expectations about quickly and dramatically improving their bodies, lives and fitness. This led to a number of women feeling guilty if they missed sessions, or frustrated about not seeing improvements. Getting some women out of their comfort zone was also a challenge. Feeling like they don’t have the skills to do certain activities can lead to women not taking part in the full range on offer. Some of the SitC women felt intimidated by exercises and equipment that they have not used before. “I did feel slightly out of my depth though, which is why I just stuck to the equipment that I know.”

As we’ve demonstrated, a feeling of selfconsciousness is almost universal amongst inactive young women. Whilst many participants found tactics to get over it and achieve success, there was one issue that remained unresolved. For some, the issue of sharing a gym with men, meant that the feeling of self-consciousness was magnified. There was a feeling that men ‘dominate’ the weights areas of gyms and unintentionally this can lead to no-go areas for some women. “I didn’t want to do weights, because I felt uncomfortable going to the weights area where it was packed with men who looked like they knew what they were doing and I would just be faffing around trying to remember what my trainer taught me and looking like an idiot.” While most men in a gym are immersed in their workout, an inappropriate comment or look from just one man can put many women off.

“However, when I got there the men in the gym were intimidating and one even walked past and shouted Hey honey! I think you should join, I’d love to see you around here! What, precisely, did he think the best scenario could have been based upon that comment?”

88% of participants agreed that ‘SitC has reminded me how good it feels to be active’

The perfect gym experience
What would the ideal gym experience be? While a gym has to be able to meet a variety of needs, SitC found some core requirements common to most women:
Flexibility of pricing for low incomes and students: Cost will always be a barrier to those recently into work or students or those on low incomes. Prices need to be competitive with other expenses that they have (clothes, rent, travel, food, socialising). Offering flexibility in the pricing and without year-long tie ins will help encourage women to take up membership. That said, money is only one aspect of the experience. Other elements come into play when looking to encourage sustainable, frequent and enjoyable attendance: A gym in close proximity to home or work/college: Safe and easy to get to either by walking or on public transport. Encouraging members to have achievable goals: Women who have positive goals and who notice ‘changes’ (be it physical changes or in their fitness level) are encouraged and motivated by this and more likely to stay with it. Approachable and informed staff on reception and in the gym: Reception staff that have a relaxed and fun attitude and are well-informed is important. Some SitC women found having a named staff member for new members provided reassurance. Create a spa-like environment: Having clean changing rooms with doors that lock are a basic requirement that should not be underestimated. However, the ultimate for many women would be to recreate the luxury of a spa where it becomes a pleasure to hang out. Hair straighteners, hair dryers, dressing gowns, magazines are all elements of these. TV and music: The women find music and TV useful for helping time pass more quickly and for encouraging harder workouts. Make sure that there are a variety of channels to choose from and that the equipment works. Space to work out: The gym feeling spacious and not crowded is important because it means that women can use all the equipment, but it can also be important because many women worry about being watched when exercising. Women-only gyms: Not all women want to work out in women-only gyms. However, many women appreciate having this as an option and felt more relaxed and confident to work out as a result. Having womenonly areas is beneficial for enabling women to work out with weights more confidently. An effective induction and continued training: Ensure staff are approachable and willing to offer advice in a non-patronising manner. For newbies it is not always obvious how things work – such as lockers and joining classes, so clear advice on all these are useful. Hold ‘surgeries’: For women to learn about different or new techniques or work-outs. Consider providing a written document for obvious questions ‘a dummies guide to gyms’. Make sure there is an easy way for members to come back and answer questions at a later date. A friendly atmosphere: Many women worry about not fitting in – that gyms are not for them. Encouraging support and a friendly atmosphere (perhaps gym buddies to go to for advice), can provide additional encouragement. Not all women will want to work out with another person, but just having someone to go to for advice is useful.

4

Providing a platform for the future
Routes into other activity
As expected though, for some, the gym experience simply wasn’t for them, citing it as monotonous and ‘the novelty wearing off’. However, the experience of SitC supports other research which shows the need to engage the inactive and increase their confidence and physical literacy before introducing competitive sport. With this in mind, and with the programme coming to a close, WSFF offered a number of taster sessions for the participants so they could try out fencing, rowing and tennis. Those who went along really enjoyed the experience. “Tennis was fantastic, thanks so much for organising it! They were great teachers, really enthusiastic and encouraging despite the fact my tennis skills had a lot to be desired! And yes, the weather was brilliant too!” As for my future tennis career – I probably won’t take up lessons, really due to financial restraints but me and my housemate definitely plan to hire a court at our nearest court.” Further ideas for programme improvements from participants included providing better links with sports clubs in the area, suggesting a desire and confidence to become more involved in sport.

Key to the success of SitC was providing a platform for women to continue in activity, without the support offered by such a scheme. Initial results are promising.

A new breed of gym bunnies
Six months on, 72% of participants are more active than they were previously. Taking the plunge and investing in gym membership provided the long-term option for some women. For over half (56%) of participants, their introduction to the gym was so powerful, that they aim to continue to use a gym. However, once the choice was theirs, convenience also became a key factor with around a third choosing a different facility than the one allocated to them. By far the biggest reason for switching was to find a more competitive deal; four in ten of these women were searching for a cheaper offer. “… as a student, I have a fixed, and very small, income and it’s quite hard to find an extra £30 or so to go out of the bank account every month.” Distance from the gym allocated was also an issue for about a fifth of women and they hoped to find a venue more convenient to their home or office.

5
Of those who have made the move into other sports or activities, most have chosen an individual activity such as jogging, cycling or swimming. Some of the women have bought equipment or exercise videos so they can exercise at home at a time that suits. It is clear that having been re-introduced to exercise, participants were then more open to other forms of physical activity. Others looked at ways to build exercise into their daily lives such as walking to work and many respondents talked about ‘going back to’ certain sports – suggesting that SitC had given them the confidence to return to experiences in their past. “I’ve started walking to work, all the way from Islington. It takes me an hour… I’ve started doing it because I started to feel really unfit again after Sweat in the City. I am quite proud of it.” “I haven’t been to the gym since SitC ended. … I’ve started horse riding again.”

The future of SitC: passing on the baton
Many of these lessons can be implemented across the sector and we hope that our experiences with SitC can aid those who are currently trying to engage inactive young women. It is imperative to recognise that young women’s past experience of sport and exercise may not be positive. In fact, much of their reluctance to be active stems from negative previous experience. Similarly, many women are motivated purely by how they look, and recognise only the physical benefits. Whilst focusing on these motivations may be detrimental, deliverers must understand the reality of the factors that bring young women into sport and exercise. SitC showed the benefits of providing both traditional and virtual support. An identified, named, person to turn to, and a virtual support system that mirrored the customer service of favourite shops and brands provided a supportive environment that encouraged attendance. The choice of branding, and the associated tone in communications ensured that SitC was a programme that young women could identify with. Customer service at the facility was just as important. Friendly, welcoming staff and a clean and pleasant environment with places to be social, or to exercise alone. WSFF believes that if sport and activity was designed in this way and delivered to fit young women’s needs, then participation will begin to increase and many more women will rediscover the positive power of exercise.

The official end to the SitC programme was in early 2009, however, our relationship with the young women hasn’t ended there. In May we held a celebration event for the participants, kindly hosted by adidas at its Performance Store on Oxford Street and have since formed a team of women to take part in the adidas Women’s 5K Challenge. The programme itself was hugely well received by the participants. 83% of the women on the programme ‘would definitely recommend it to a friend’. WSFF’s future plans for SitC are taking shape, but already the lessons we’ve learnt from this first set of amazing young women has provided us with an invaluable insight into what they want from exercise.

It is clear that having been re-introduced to exercise, participants were then more open to other forms of physical activity

SitC has provided us with an invaluable insight into what young women want from exercise

The last word...
... is from the Sweat in the City participants themselves. Thanks to each and every one of you for sharing your experiences with us. “I am so grateful that I was a part of Sweat in the City. I want to thank everyone who has been involved! I have enjoyed myself so much, and it has got me motivated! I am generally happier! You have helped me on my journey to happiness! Thank you so much SitC!!” “The Sweat in the City programme has been a fantastic initiative… I hope that this programme is able to continue and to inspire more and more young women to maintain active and healthy lifestyles. Many thanks.” “I am so pleased I was able to be a part of this scheme and I think it was such a fantastic idea. The time has flown by (as we all know it does when you have fun!), and, now that I find myself at the end of the 3 month membership, I don’t think I want to quit!… Thank you for giving me the chance to find my own rhythm!”

The SitC song: What Sweat in the City means to participant Pui-Tien Man
At first, I was afraid. I was petrified. Kept thinking I’d fall off the belt before I found my stride I thought the weights would crush me down if I ever set them wrong, But I grew strong, And slowed the pounds that I put on Could see my back From outta space; Don’t get me started on the redness stairs would put upon my face! I used to think that they would mock, that they would laugh if they could see, Never thought just for one second that they’d help little old me... So go on, go – walk out the door! Go to the gym now! Gotta work out a little more! I’m so upset that I must bid this scheme goodbye, Will I now stumble? Will my new fit bug take a dive? No it can’t die, it will survive! All these endorphins that I get from sport, they make me feel alive I’ve got all my life to live, gotta keep being active So I will strive, yes I will strive... It took all the strength I had at the very start 5 minutes into Circuits, I’d clutch at my heart’ ? I spent so many “next days” all sore and sorry for myself But oh the pride, It made me hold my head up high! Every day I’d try something new, I’m not that lazy little blob who has nothing to do ‘Cos of Sweat in the City, I feel fitter, calmer, and free Now I’m saving up my money for a sport that’s right for me So go on, go – walk out your door! Time to get fit now! Come on, just push a little more! I’m so upset that I must bid this scheme goodbye, Will resolve crumble? Will Xmas lunches make me die? Oh no not I, I will survive! All these endorphins that I get from sport just make me feel alive I’ve got all my life to live, gotta keep being active And I will strive... yes I will strive...yeah, yeah! Thank you, Sweat in the City.

Appendix Research methodology and project details
This section summarises the methodology used to collect the data in this report, along with an explanation of some of the processes implemented during the programme. For more detail about the various methods and processes used see the online Technical Report. SitC was designed to specifically provide a route to activity for 16 to 24 year olds, who are currently inactive (that is doing less than 30 minutes of moderate activity three times a week) and who have their home address in a London borough. Working together The project was run by WSFF in partnership with the Fitness Industry Association (FIA), the UK’s industry body of gyms and leisure centres. The membership cost was donated free of charge (market worth around £300,000). The administration of the programme was funded through the National Lottery Community Investment Fund as distributed by Sport England London region. Profiling participants Over 2200 women signed up to be part of SitC for 2213 places, although the final count of women who started on the programme was just less than 2100. Some women had to be rejected because they did not fulfil the selection criteria and a few others chose not to take part at a late stage. The recruitment ambition was to reflect the demographic profile but no direct quotas were set. SitC was more popular with older women in the age group – 56% of participants were 22+ compared with 20% of 16 to 18 year olds. The profile broadly reflected the ethnic make up of the general public. Registration and selection criteria To enrol on SitC the women completed an online registration form. This form was the first step to determining whether the women were eligible for the programme. They were asked their name, age, address, email, current activity levels and preferred choice of gym. Anyone who said that they were active at least three times a week, had a gym membership or who did not live in London was not permitted onto the programme. The terms and conditions of the programme did state that any dishonesty would result in them being removed from the programme. By taking up the membership the women had to agree to abide by the terms and conditions, keep an online diary of their experience and fill in a pre- and post-programme questionnaire. Acceptance onto the programme Once the women had been accepted onto the programme they were sent an email, informing them they had been accepted onto the programme and which gym they were assigned. Pre-programme questionnaire In the acceptance email the women were asked to log onto www.sweatinthecity.co.uk and answer a set of questions about why they joined the programme; how confident they feel about using the gym and going to classes; exercising in front of others; how they feel about their bodies; and their views on exercise, sport and PE. 1602 women logged onto the site to fill in the pre-programme questionnaire. Online diaries For the most part, the women could write about anything they wanted. However, there were two instances where they were asked to feed back on a specific question – 1) did they prefer working out alone or with a friend and 2) what SitC has meant to them? Post programme questionnaire At the end of the programme every participant was sent a link to an online questionnaire. The questionnaire included some of the same questions as asked at the beginning of the programme. 346 women completed the postprogramme questionnaire. The results of the pre-programme and post-programme surveys were then analysed to see if there were any change in individual attitudes. In June 2009 a further online survey was sent to all women asking about their current activity levels six months post SitC. 184 women completed the survey. The surveys were developed by IDA, a research agency (www. ida.co.uk). WSFF conducted the data analysis. Focus groups Three 90 minute focus groups were held with 22 participants from the programme. The purpose of the sessions was to learn from the young women about their reasons for inactivity and their motivations for joining SitC. The research focused on the psycho-social factors that are harder to understand through quantitative techniques.

Interviews Ten telephone interviews were held with women who either signed up to the programme but never attended, or who attended just a couple of times. The purpose of this was to find out what prevented them from taking up the scheme and what could be done to help them in the future. Gym evaluations The leisure centres involved in the programme were asked to fill in a questionnaire about how they found the delivery of the programme. This questionnaire was designed and distributed by the FIA. 67 sites completed their forms but few were able to measure attendance.

Acknowledgements Thanks to Rebecca Hargreaves, Nina Cresswell and Emma Newell at LexisPR, Peter Jackling at IDA, Richard Forrester and Anthony Kallay at IDC, Blyk, Adidas, Brittany Robbins, Sport England, Shock Absorber, Compeed and all the providers who kindly donated the free places and the women who took up the SitC challenge. Photography by Tanya Lloyd

References Sport England, (2008) Active People Survey 2007-8 WSFF, (2007) It’s time: future forecasts for women’s participation in sport and exercise; (www.wsff.org.uk/documents/flare_final.pdf) WSFF, (2008) Creating a nation of active women: a framework for change; (www.wsff. org.uk/documents/active_women.pdf)