Whenever I speak to Women’s Health readers, at live events or in the DMs of social media, one message comes through loud and clear: you lot love exercise. You know that something as simple as a walk around your local area or a pre-bedtime stretch can be transformative. It certainly has been for me.
It’s why, as editor-in-chief of this brand, I’m committed to bringing the immeasurable benefits of exercise to each and every woman – and why I want to tell you about our latest campaign, in partnership with Under Armour, #itstartswithabra.
If you think motivation is all that stands in the way of a daily sweat session, there’s a far bigger barrier.
Why WH is launching #itstartswithabra
Low income or financial hardship is one of the biggest barriers to women participating in exercise. Sport England’s Active Lives Adult Survey shows a significant disparity between different socio-economic groups and their engagement in physical activity, finding that those in lower socio-economic groups – who make up nearly a third of the adult population – are the least likely to be active.
If that statistic surprises you, it doesn’t surprise me. I grew up in the humble working-class environment of the South Wales Valleys. Workout classes were rare in my village; the idea of going for a run for the pure hell of it, unheard of. I think, in part, it was gendered.
Watch: These Diet Habits Will Help You Get the Most From Your Workouts
While my dad played professional football, in my village at least, sport was thought of as something that was for men; something they did when they trained under the lights on a weeknight and played rugby against neighbouring towns and villages on Saturday afternoon.
It wasn’t that there was a lack of opportunity to kick, throw or hit a ball, it’s just that for women it wasn’t the done thing. Meanwhile, among my female relatives, type 2 diabetes was endemic. Looking back now, a lot has changed.
Access to exercise has greatly improved, thanks to free nationwide events like parkrun, while the mental health conversation has normalised moving your body for the sake of your mind.
But one thing hasn’t changed. Kit costs money, and when there isn’t much of it to go around, moving your body in a way that’s both comfortable and safe becomes a luxury.
I’m not talking about the latest leggings you’ve been eyeing from a celeb collab collection; nor a pair of trainers that cost more than a monthly food shop. I’m talking about the item that forms the foundation of your fit kit as a woman.
A sports bras can be the foundation of a good workout
I’m talking, of course, about a sports bra. A good sports bra does more than keep your breasts from colliding with your chin. It’s an emotional investment in yourself; the mere act of putting it on a statement of intent about how you will spend 60, 30 or, some days, even just 10 minutes. So established is this phenomenon that researchers have a name for it.
Coined a decade ago, ‘enclothed cognition’ is the idea that clothing can influence the way you think, feel and even function. I’m so convinced that an active lifestyle – and the many benefits it brings – begins with your boobs, that I’ve named our new campaign after this very idea.
The goal of #itstartswithabra is simple: to help women begin their fitness journey with confidence. In order to do that, Women’s Health has teamed up with our friends at Under Armour to gift 2,000 sports bras to the women who need them most.
In the coming months, you’ll find stories – in this magazine and over on our website – of how women from all walks of life found fitness when they needed it the most.
Because exercise should be for everyone.
'Why I provide tennis rackets to women in my community'
Nalette Tucker, 31, a tennis coach, lives in Bradford. She knows the importance of getting the right kit to women.
'I’ve seen first-hand the impact that bringing kit to people can have. It was coming up against barriers myself – from my clothing (I wear a hijab) to a lack of female-only opportunities – that led me to launch the Sunnah Sports Academy Trust, a charity tackling the barriers that keep women from exercise.
Since then, I’ve trained as a tennis coach with LTA Serves – a project run by the LTA – to help normalise tennis as a sport that’s for everyone. We’ve been into schools, churches and mosques, providing tennis rackets, balls and coaching. Kit became more vital than ever when we went into lockdown. But we managed to donate 73 tennis rackets to people within the Bradford community, alongside online coaching support.
Getting texts saying things like, “The kids are in the garden with their rackets,” that’s what really motivates me.'
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