Source: Doug Peters /PA Wire


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 #LetsLiftTheCurfew that leaves women feeling ‘anxious’, ‘vulnerable’ and ‘unsafe’ when getting active outdoors in winter, says This Girl Can

  • New data finds almost half (46%) of women change their outdoor physical activity routine as a direct result of the darker months
  • Six in 10 women (60%) are concerned about the risk of sexual harassment or intimidation when getting active outdoors in the dark
  • This Girl Can rallies women in #LetsLiftTheCurfew run to raise awareness of the issues they face when getting active outdoors, particularly after the clocks go back 30th October 2023

Kate Dale (centre) with women from running groups across London taking part in This Girl CanÕs #LetsLiftTheCurfew run. Photo credit: Doug Peters/PA Wire

On Monday 30th October This Girl Can rallied women in a run around Westminster to draw attention to the safety concerns preventing them getting active during darker months. Fears for their own safety and darker evenings cause a drop-off in women enjoying exercising outdoors during the winter, with new research revealing almost half (48%) of women do not like to get active outdoors after dark.

Six in 10 (60%) women surveyed are also concerned about the risk of sexual harassment or intimidation when being active as the nights draw in.

Following the clocks going back on Sunday, and the significantly shorter daylight hours this brings, women came together for a #LetsLiftTheCurfew run to raise awareness of the safety issues they face during winter. Organised by This Girl Can, the 5km run was attended by representatives from running groups across London including London City Runners, Black Girls Do Run and The Say Yes Club. The motivation for the run was highlighted on an accompanying roving digital screen travelling around Westminster and central London, passing landmarks including the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. On it, real quotes from women and striking graphics of women being active brought to life the stark contrast women feel between getting active in daylight and in darkness. During the winter months, a perceived ‘curfew’ hinders women’s likeliness to engage in outdoor exercise, with the fear of being active outdoors in darkness making women feel ‘anxious’, ‘vulnerable’ and ‘unsafe’.

#LetsLiftTheCurfew aims to highlight these concerns, amplify women’s voices and advocate for solutions that make outdoor sport and physical activity a safer and more inclusive experience for all. This Girl Can’s new research found almost half (46%) of women change their outdoor exercise routine or habits as a direct result of the darker months. Two in five (40%) feel limited due to this, and more than a quarter (27%) feel sad or frustrated.

The activity intended to spark conversation following a Sport England parliamentary roundtable on Thursday, 19 October around the safety issues women face when getting active. Attended by thought leaders including Caroline Nokes MP, Kim Leadbeater MP, and Sharon Gaffka, Influencer and Violence Against Women & Girls campaigner, the session identified key themes and action areas for making sport and physical activity safer for women:

1. Culture – education around respect for and allyship with women is needed from a young age, and women’s experiences must be taken seriously, including minor aggressions which can build to make women feel unsafe

2. Reporting – ensuring proper frameworks are in place to report misogynistic behaviour of all levels in a range of environments

3. Planning – planning environments, including sports and games areas in public outdoor spaces, e.g. skateparks, with a female lens

4. Data – identifying and implementing opportunities to share safety information to inform solutions

5. Community – acknowledging the power in partnerships to reach broader audiences with important messages.

Kate Dale, Director of Marketing at Sport England and This Girl Can, said: “As daylight hours diminish, many women are opting to stay indoors due to safety concerns, resulting in decreased physical activity levels. The impact of this on women’s overall health and well-being is of massive concern and requires both attention and intervention.

“It’s not right that for nearly half the year, we feel we have fewer options to be active in the ways that work for us. And even if we go out despite these fears, it’s harder to get the joy, freedom and confidence that physical activity can bring if you’re constantly looking over your shoulder or monitoring your surroundings. It’s yet another emotional barrier, something else we have to manage if we want to build activity into our routines and lives.

“Helping women feel safe when getting active is not a singular responsibility; we need everyone to engage with the issue. Our parliamentary roundtable helped to facilitate this, bringing parliamentarians, experts, academics and influencers together to discuss how we can make sport and physical activity feel and be safe for women, 12 months a year.

“It was a powerful session and we are optimistic about the change we can bring about. We must all work together to keep the conversation going, while bringing on board individuals, groups and organisations across wider society to understand their role in making women feel safer when getting active.”

#LetsLiftTheCurfew is part of This Girl Can’s broader mission to close the Enjoyment Gap – the fact 2.4 million fewer women than men enjoy getting active – by empowering society, including sport and physical activity providers, to make exercise safe, suitable, social and self-affirming for women. Those involved in the run wore t-shirts emblazoned with first-hand quotes from women about how they feel when getting active outdoors during the darker hours of winter. This Girl Can is calling on the public to join the conversation. Together, #LetsLiftTheCurfew.

With thanks to This Girl Can