Fewer women (59 per cent) than men (63 per cent) are active enough to meet national guidance of 150 minutes or more of moderate intensity activity each week, found research from Sport England as part of its Active Lives Survey of 200,000 people.

More women should be encouraged to get involved in exercise, Sport England chief executive, Jennie Price said, launching the latest phase of the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign.

A new prime-time television advert features real women of different ages taking part in sport alongside the voice of iconic poet Maya Angelou and her poem ‘Phenomenal woman’.

The campaign, the first initiative of its kind to celebrate women of all shapes, sizes and levels of ability getting active, has already helped 2.8 million women to get involved in exercise. The latest initiative is funded by The National Lottery.

Key messages are “It’s OK to sweat, it’s OK to jiggle, it’s OK not to be brilliant (or to be brilliant) and it’s normal for life to get in the way sometimes,” said campaign organisers.

“This Girl Can has made a real difference since it launched, with the number of women doing regular physical activity and sport now at an all-time high. But there’s a lot more to do,” said Ms Price.

“Our research showed the dialogue many of us have in our heads about whether we look OK, whether we are good enough, whether we belong here doesn’t go away - we just learn to manage it. That’s why the reinforcement of seeing women who look like us playing sport and talking honestly about how they feel about it is so powerful.”

The message that taking a break from exercise is normal is also being emphasised. “It can feel like the hardest thing in the world to return after a few weeks off, when you fear you’ve lost ground or fitness, but we want to surface this as a discussion point, to say it’s normal to take a break, but that needn’t stop you for good,’’ explains Ms Price.

Sport England’s vision is that everyone in England, regardless of age, background or ability, feels able to take part in sport or activity.

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