“Exercise is my medication and motivation for life”.
The inspirational words of 24-year-old Patrice Bromley-Robertson who undertook exercise to combat the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome, which affects around one in five women in the UK.
Since adopting a fitness regime including home workouts, body weights and free weights, a routine scan discovered Patrice’s cysts have since disappeared.
Her story is just one of many featured in Sport England’s new television advert, as part of the revolutionary This Girl Can campaign.
The sport body’s initiative is marking its fifth anniversary by showcasing “the raw unfiltered reality of women exercising in whatever way that works for them”, including a breastfeeding mother who plays netball, a woman who clutches a hot water bottle to her abdomen and another whose tampon string is visible, highlighting the issues women face.
Here are the stories of some women featured in the groundbreaking campaign.
The mother and daughter who exercise together to manage their health conditions
Patrice’s mother Yvonne, a 54-year-old mother-of-two, went through the menopause aged 45, and took up exercise seven years ago to battle weight gain, hot flushes and sleep disturbances.
The pair, from Haringey, London, regularly exercise together and motivate each other to keep fit, through home exercises and running.
“My body feels alive and I have so much more energy,” said Yvonne.
“If you take at least one hour out of your busy schedule, I promise you will find the time to do more. If I can do it, anyone can, so go out there and smash it.”
‘I know now that I don’t need to worry being judged, I just need to do me’
Glynis Evans, from Romford, is disabled and wears prosthetics, and finds swimming allows her to keep fit with less pain than traditional gym exercises.
The part-time teaching assistant started swimming in primary school and discovered it was the optimum exercise for her disability, but had to stop after several years due to routine changes as she got older.
In 2018, weight gain spurred Glynis on to make a return to the pool, but she found it difficult to commit to lessons and stopped going.
Last year, she took the plunge once more, making the brave decision to join her local swimming group for disabled people, which she continues to attend twice a week alongside around 20 members.
“Don’t watch what anyone else is doing and just focus on yourself,” she said.
New research from Sport England says more than half of women stop exercising, at least occasionally, because of worrying about what others think.
“I’ve always been wary of what other people think of me and I know that other people look at me and I’ve often felt judged,” Glynis added.
“This year I hope to become an advocate to work with children to let kids know that they can be whatever they want to be.
“The sky is not the limit. Go further and beyond. Nothing is impossible.”
How team sport helped a mum-of-three rediscover herself
Mother-of-three Kirsti Hau discovered her love for netball in school, but looking after a six-year-old, a four-year-old and a 10-month-old means life has got in the way of her hobbies.
After taking a break during each pregnancy, 37-year-old Kirsti eventually got back on the court more regularly, and plays competitively every weekend. Her motivation? Her older children cheering her on on the sidelines.
“It’s all about taking small steps,” Kirsti, who lives in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, said on how she juggles motherhood with fitness.
“There are loads of ways to get active. You can start off by doing a few bits at home (on apps or watching YouTube) that way you can build up the confidence at home.
“Once you’re ready, you can find something in the community with like-minded women.”
‘You’ll find that people are much more accepting than you think they’re going to be’
Farrah Herbert, from London, had been a keen climber for many years, but decided to take a break from the sport she loved. A few years later, she was invited to a group climbing trip which involved an overnight stay in a hostel.
Despite her initial reservations about the accommodation, Farrah overcame her fear and agreed to the trip, where she had a brilliant time meeting new people and re-discovering her love for the sport.
Since then, she has been on numerous similar trips, including a recent one-week climbing trip to Spain, and climbs a few times a week with her partner.
“You don’t need to worry about what people might think, say or do,” Farrah said. “There may be something holding you back from getting active, like fear of judgement, but most of the time it’s much worse in your head than it is in reality.
“You just need to get out there and do it because it’s not as bad as you think and you will enjoy it when you do it.
“Soon enough you forget there was ever a barrier there at all.”