Created by Polona Fonda

Girl’s guide to exercise

Exercise is essential for our well-being: it affects all aspects of our lives, from happiness to health.

Unfortunately many girls have negative experiences with it. Me included. Girl’s guide to exercise aims to change that.

  • Exercise can boost our academic performance and helps us perform better at school.
  • Research suggests physical activity can make us feel better about our bodies.
  • Exercise is also positively related to preventing domestic and drug abuse, eating disorders, obesity and all other health conditions.

What is exercise?

Exercise is any activity which requires physical effort and improves our fitness. The activities can vary from walking to learning a new sport.

Exercise can vary in intensity: from light to moderate and high. It also comes in different forms: aerobic (activities like running and cycling) and anaerobic (sports like weightlifting and certain track and field disciplines).

Exercise has many benefits 

From health to happiness, exercise can change our life. Click the buttons below to find out more.

Exercise can … 

Exercise can trigger the release of the feel-good substances… more.

Working out together with our peers connects in a more cohesive unit… learn how.

Exercise affects all aspects of our health. It improves our heart, lungs… learn more.

Exercising on regular basis makes us feel confident and secure… see why.

What stops us from exercising?  

Several challenges stand in our way to be more active. As sports have predominantly been a men’s domain, girls often feel uncomfortable taking part in it.

It takes a while to start enjoying the red face, the sweaty hair, the heavy breathing… And it takes a lot of training to stop caring what other people think (about us). Maybe we also have to grow up a little bit. 

Growing up, girls have to cope with the feelings of insecurity and a little loss of confidence. We have all been there. Women, and men, of all ages, feel fear and shame.

It’s scary to start, but start anyway and see how it feels.

If you don’t like a certain sport, try another one. The key to overcoming all the hurdles is finding an exercise you love doing. Fear and shame have no power in something that makes you happy.

See the list of the hurdles below. Click on the one which applies to you.

How to start exercising

Most girls start for all the wrong reasons: weight loss.

Ditch the weightloss thing. Physical activity has to be fun, and it needs to make you happy.


Go for a walk and keep walking for as long as you enjoy it.


If you don’t like sport, try activities such a gardening or crafting. Otherwise, join a group class. Getting new friends at a sport class is the best motivation.


If you feel like not joining a group (just yet), search through YouTube for exercise channels. There are plenty of them. Do a little exercise at home.


Ask your friends what sports they enjoy most. Join them.


Do a research around your area to find out what clubs and organisations which offer physical activity or sport classes. Try some.


Search until you find something you love doing. It takes a couple of weeks to adjust the new environment and relax.


If nothing works (at the beginning), just walk. Walk is the most underestimated exercise. Walking keeps us moving forward, relaxes our mind and strengthens our health.

Girls are less physically active in most countries and most regions.  

~ (HBSC, 2013/14)

Download Girl’s guide to exercise infographic (vector file).

Stories of inspiration

Team Powerful

As a young girl, what helped me most was talking to older female friends. Nothing is more inspirational than knowing someone understands.

The following stories are called Team Powerful and feature all kinds of women who decided to start being active with a goal of having fun and improving their health and happiness.