Millions of women say seeing ‘unrelatable’ fitness images on social media has a negative impact on them

This Girl Can exercise group
This Girl Can launches powerful new ad campaign showing the raw unfiltered reality of women exercising

• New insights from Sport England reveal that 63% of women who see slim, toned bodies on social media sites say this has a negative impact on them, while nearly a quarter (24%) who follow fitness influencers, say they make them feel bad about themselves

• This Girl Can is calling for influencers, media and brands to feature more realistic and diverse imagery of women to promote sport and physical activity

• The poll coincides with the launch of a new campaign and TV advert from This Girl Can, featuring relatable women and focussing not on the way they look, but the way exercise makes them feel.

New findings from Sport England have revealed that almost two-thirds (63%) of women who see ‘slimtoned bodies’ on social media say it has a negative impact on them. Nearly a quarter (24%), who follow fitness influencers, say they make them feel bad about themselves, and less than a fifth (18%) of these women find fitness influencers relatable.

There is a clear appetite for more relatable content with nearly a third of women reporting they would feel positive about seeing women on social media posting about exercising without make up (31%), sweating (20%) and discussing how they overcame challenges to keeping active, including not being very good (42%), lack of time (30%), menopause symptoms (26%) and periods (18%).

At the same time, the survey also confirmed just how powerful a tool social media can be in changing behaviour, with more than half of the women who follow fitness influencers saying they find them motivating (53%) and informative (52%).

While 89% of women don’t post about the exercise they do on social media, the This Girl Can campaign is encouraging women to share their own experiences of what its looks like to get active with nearly a third (32%) of those who don’t post saying this is because they don’t think it would interest other people.

The new research comes ahead of the award-winning This Girl Can campaign’s returns to TV screens on January 17th to help close the stubborn gender gap in sport and physical activity.

Currently nearly two fifths (39%) of women aren’t active.(1)  The new advert aims to tackle this by showing the raw and unfiltered reality of women exercising and shining a light on issues and barriers rarely seen in sports imagery, such as dealing with menstruation, continuing This Girl Can’s groundbreaking formula which has already inspired almost four million women to act since it launched in 2015. The campaign also features out of home and social media advertising.

Lisa O’Keefe, Director of Insight at Sport England, said: “This Girl Can is about helping women feel confident, so they can overcome the fears about being judged that our research showed was stopping many from getting active. Since we launched five years ago, we’re seeing more relatable images in advertising and social media, but there’s a long way to go until women’s lives are being shown in a realistic way. We’ve designed the new adverts to show things we’re still not seeing – women using exercise to manage period symptoms or juggling motherhood – all while celebrating women of all shapes, sizes, abilities and backgrounds.

“We all have a role to play and This Girl Can cannot do it alone. Sport England is calling on all advertisers, the fitness industry, influencers, and brands to think about how they can support women to be active and using more relatable imagery is an important start.”

Tally Rye, Personal Trainer and author of ‘Train Happy’ comments: “As a PT and fitness influencer, I’m really excited by the power of social media to support, inspire and motivate women. However, I’m highly conscious that this position also comes with responsibility not to alienate women. As a fitness community we have a huge opportunity to create content that makes women feel good about themselves. I try to ensure that I show a real reflection of the sweaty reality of being active on my Instagram feed. I’m a firm believer that every little counts and the importance of enjoying it without worrying what you look like.”

This January, This Girl Can also begins a new partnership with women’s deodorant brand Sure to reach even more women and inspire them to become active. A brand-new limited-edition ‘This Girl Can’ Sure Advanced Protection anti-perspirant– designed with the This Girl Can team is available to buy in major retailers across the UK. The This Girl Can website also features a new and improved activity finder, supported by Sure, which will help women find accessible ways of getting active in areas close to them– so they can find something that fits with their lives.

Sport England are also launching a new This Girl Can fund – supported by Sure – to help local communities to fund projects that encourage women to get active. Backed by funding from The National Lottery, local organisations and community groups can bid for grants from between £300 to up to £10,000.

For more information about This Girl Can, please visit:

The new This Girl Can TV advert can also be viewed via this link:

(1) Sport England Active Lives survey May 18/May 19 shows that 61% of women (or 14.1m) are active, compared to 65% of men (or 14.4m). Being active is defined as doing 150 minutes or more of physical activity each week, according to the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines.