A campaign has launched across the North East this week to tackle the barriers that stop millions of women exercising.
The ‘This Girl Can’ movement, led by Newcastle City Council, comes as Sport England research revealed two million fewer 14 to 40-year-old women are active compared to men.
It was kick-started at Newcastle’s Civic Centre this week, helped by the backing of GB marathon runner Aly Dixon and fitness guru Katie Bulmer-Cooke, who appeared on BBC The Apprentice.
A motivational video has also been produced encouraging the city’s women to take up sport and was shown at the launch, which coincided with International Women’s Day.
Aly said: “I’ve gained a huge amount of enjoyment from being involved in sport for most of my life and it has had many positive effects on me.”
Today we hear the stories of three women who each, in their own way, overcame barriers and prejudice to get fit and healthy.
Alison Proudfoot attends Gosforth Central Park running group every Wednesday night. She is 51 and lives in Kenton.
We met with Alison to catch up with how her training for the Great North run was getting on and her running journey for Maggie’s.
“Maggie’s is a National charity which centre is located at the Freeman hospital in Newcastle,” she said.
“The charity provides free practical, social and emotional support for people going through cancer treatment and also for family and friends of the patients.
“The charity provides additional support and nurturing which is not provided by the hospital itself.
“Maggie’s provides yoga classes, nutritional advise, workshops, and courses which help support the treatment that the patient is undergoing.
“The social side of Maggie’s is also fantastic, with opportunity to meet a lot of people who you can speak to about your treatment and also people who are going are in the same situation.
“I attend Gosforth Central Park Running club and started attending the sessions in March 2014 after completing my treatment for breast cancer.
“I initially started running a few years ago and attended one of the Active Newcastle beginners running groups and then transferred to an intermediate session.
“I preferred running with a group of people and found running as part of the group much more enjoyable.
“After my treatment had finished I wanted to get back into running and heard about the free sessions being run as part of the Coca-Cola Zero Parklives program.
“I first started in 2010 running with an Active Newcastle daytime beginners group, then transferred to an intermediate group where she stayed for a couple of years.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring of 2013. I then underwent surgery in the summer 2013. Chemotherapy was then carried out autumn 2013 which finished just before Christmas.
“I then completed a course of radiotherapy that finished in February 2014. I tried to keep as active and mobile throughout the treatment but was unable to run through treatment however I was keen to start back when I could.
“I started back running in March 2014 to what was advertised as a beginners running group.
“This then transpired into applying to do the Great North Run and I thought that that was the best place to go next.”
Theresa Kirby, 18, said: “I ran the furthest I’d ever run – one mile, on the last day of school, having not exercised for two years.
“Fast forward 28 years later, I thought it might be fun to take up running.
“I purchased the trainers and went for one run.
“Four years later, last September to be exact, Active Newcastle asked if any women would be interested in joining a beginners’ running group in Gosforth, with the opportunity to train for the Great North Run.
“I leapt at the chance – I wanted to achieve something special as I transitioned to another decade of my life.
“The group runs in all weathers, and has always been so friendly, and encouraging. I was so excited when we ran a whole mile – you’d have thought I’d won the Lottery.
“Then I entered my first ever road race this April – a 10 km run to Tynemouth. The hardest battle was with myself, to keep running after four miles, when I just wanted to walk, but knew that I must keep running. I finished in 01:04:59.
“I wish I’d sought physiotherapy advice earlier though, as various problems manifested themselves during my first few months of running.
“I thought the problems would resolve themselves. They didn’t, and rehabilitation took months.
“So, two days before the Great North Run, I had to defer my place.
“Undeterred, and having survived a scuba accident in Dubrovnik this summer, I looked forward to the weekly winter runs with the group, despite wearing fluorescent yellow, and our group being regularly “serenaded” by cars hooting and wolf-whistles.
Meet the Welbeck Warriors: They are a group of parents from Walker who together have raised funds to take part in weekly activities in their children’s school after the school drop off time.
They started off by doing a weekly keep fit session. They now take part in a variety of different fitness and sport activities which includes walking and cycling.
As a group they will be entering the Beach Warrior on Tynemouth at the end of March and afterwards will start training for their first ever netball tournament.
They are great examples of Newcastle women who have gone from not taking part in any activity to tackling some real challenges.