Main image: Esther who has become the face of the campaign skipping in her back garden. All images Bristol Girls Can.
A new campaign launched this month is inspiring and supporting mums of young children to take ‘small steps’ towards being more active.
It’s being run by Bristol Girls Can – a project that aims to break down barriers to exercise and encourage women to have fun getting active.
Working alongside a group of mums and staff from South Bristol Children’s Centre (SBCC) – Small Steps is reaching out to mums with young children across the city.
The message of the campaign is to “start small and do what works for you” – whether it’s a walk around the block, 10 minutes hula hooping, or a kitchen disco while cooking the tea – it all counts and it can be fun.
It demonstrates you don’t need a gym membership or expensive gear to give it a go. If you have young children at home, exercising with them still counts and can help establish healthy habits for life.
The project is also funding Small Steps activities for mums to take part in with their children at Children’s Centres across South Bristol – which include Buggy Walk and Talk, Toddler Yoga and Boogie Disco sessions.
Caroline Wade from SBCC says: “South Hub Children Centres have recently been working in partnership with Bristol Girls Can on their Small Steps campaign – offering local mums the opportunity to be active with their children, meet other mums, find out what else is going on in the community and to have fun…”
Bristol Girls Can is part of the national This Girl Can campaign, developed and funded by Sport England and delivered locally by Bristol City Council’s Public Health Team.
The campaign focuses on mums in response to Sport England research – which found motherhood has a mostly negative impact on women’s activity levels.
Research carried out for the project by the University of Bristol also found the COVID-19 pandemic has made keeping active even tougher for mums – already facing barriers to exercise, such as time, cost and childcare.
Mothers involved in the Small Steps campaign have been sharing their stories to inspire others – they include Charlotte, a single mum of five, who talks about enjoying a dance fit class in Hartcliffe.
She says: “I’ve learnt dance moves which I can try out if I ever get the chance for a night out. I have no co-ordination, but love dancing to the routines (even when they all laugh at my funny moves).
“If I’m moving, I feel good and I’m burning calories. My children even dance along with us now, we practice at home too…”
Laura, a South Bristol mum of two, turned her life around when she started jogging alongside her daughters on the school run.
She says: “I was terrified of exercising – it was for other people. When I got diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, I realised things had hit critical. At nearly 23 stone, I took the first step. I began to walk quickly, then jog, building it up slowly.
“Our school run is perfect – two miles up to four times a day. I’m not fit-bodied or Lycra-clad, but I am running. And I’ve discovered that the fear of what others would think of me was far more to do with me than them. For me now, it’s all about the feeling I get from exercise. My focus isn’t about being slim, it’s being healthy as well as having fun.”
And Jodie, a local mum to a two-year-old boy started pole fitness as she was unhappy with her “fitness level and body image” after having her son.
She says: “I also felt I had lost my identity a little bit and wanted to do something for me! …It has been hard to fit in a lot of classes as my husband works very long hours and weekends, so I am often at home trying to entertain my son. In 2020 with the pandemic, I really didn’t want to lose the strength I had gained so I bought a pole for at home.
“This is when I started pole fitness at home and my little boy became interested and so is always trying to copy or has me lifting him to the top of the pole… I’ve now started trying to teach him a few bits and he loves it. It’s a great way to keep fit and I can do it whenever I get a spare five to ten minutes around my everyday routine.”
You can also view a video of Jodie’s routine, made with support from Knowle West Media Centre, at: https://youtu.be/xhfrb0WWZsk
Councillor Ellie King, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Public Health, Communities and Bristol One City, said: “This campaign gives a voice to a diverse group of Bristol mums from less affluent areas of the city who are overcoming barriers to exercise in whatever way works for them.
“The Small Steps campaign uses real stories and empowering photos to challenge our view of what women being active look like. By sharing these stories, Bristol Girls Can hopes to inspire women from across the city to take their own small steps and feel the benefits of becoming more active.”
Photos celebrating all the mums involved in the campaign and their stories are featured on the Bristol Girls Can website alongside a new activity guide with advice for taking that first small step.