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Fitness programme for girls expands across Cardiff

INNERSTRENGTH aims to provide a safe space for girls to exercise

A fitness and wellness programme for teenage girls will expand across Cardiff and offer longer courses.

The INNERSTRENGTH course is part of the Girls Together campaign run by Sport Cardiff, partnered with Cardiff Metropolitan University and Cardiff Council.

INNERSTRENGTH started three years ago following research by Sport Cardiff that revealed a “desperate need for girls only activities across Cardiff,” said Fay Benningwood, Sports Development Coordinator for Women and Girls at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Previously a 10-week course, new courses will last for 12 weeks and will be implemented from February in St. Mellons, Llanrumney, Adamsdown and Butetown.

Girls were given access to the gym at Eastern Leisure Centre. Image: Fay Benningwood

The course focuses on a different activity every week, including boxercise, Zumba and yoga and has expanded following feedback from participants asking for it to be longer.

“INNERSTRENGTH has allowed me to meet like-minded people and openly discuss topics of significance not only for my generation, but for females in general. We have learnt to encourage each other and to put our value above the judgement of others,” one participant in the project said.

“There are so many barriers for teenage girls, and there’s a classic drop-off of girls doing sport as they enter their teenage years,” Ms Benningwood said.

“If girls have confidence and self-esteem issues, they are less likely to engage, similarly if they have issues with body image. With the increase of social media, some girls are scared someone could video them doing something and upload it and people will laugh at them.”

Data is collected from questionnaires girls fill in at the start and end of the course. Image: Fay Benningwood.

Ms Benningwood said that Cardiff Youth Service had approached Sport Cardiff for help, as the youth nights they had been organising had become dominated by boys. As a result, girls were finding physical activities, such as football, off-putting.

INNERSTRENGTH was then developed to provide a safe space for girls to exercise and discuss topics significant to their age range.

“We’ve built good networks across the community. We’ve got children coming in from both of the high schools in the one area, and we’ve managed to bring them into one setting and create friendships across the schools,” Ms Benningwood said.

The programme began in Llanrumney, with one hour of physical activity followed by another hour of a well-being workshop.

A well-being instructor discusses topics such as healthy or unhealthy behaviours, tackling stereotypes faced by girls, as well as looking at what it’s like to grow up in the girls’ communities and how safe they feel within them.

As part of these classes, Ms Benningwood said participants complete an activity where they’re asked to draw a perfect girl. The instructors then try and break this down and talk about individuality and the pressure teenagers face about the way they look.

Girls were asked to draw what they thought the ‘perfect girl’ would look like. Image: Fay Benningwood

Each area has its own instructor for the full length of the course.

“We have the most success where there is consistency and a relatable instructor, someone who is a role model to the girls. The key is having the right people,” Ms Benningwood said.

INNERSTRENGTH began working with Eastern Leisure Centre, Llanrumney, to provide access to the gym for girls from the age of 13, allowing them to use areas such as the spin room.

The course avoids offering the same sports participants are likely to do in PE lessons in order to inspire them to find an activity they enjoy.

At the start of the course, participants are asked to fill out a questionnaire about their confidence, physical activity and body image and these are reviewed at the end.

According to data collected from these questionnaires, 64% of girls felt more body confident by the end of the course, and 91% said they felt fairly confident in everyday life.

“The course opens up lots of opportunities for people. Some girls have come to do leadership courses with Sport Cardiff,” said Ms Benningwood.

The course is free except for Easter Leisure Centre which is £2 a week due to the facilities used there.

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