Women’s Self Esteem and the Benefits of Sports

Taking a break in a workout to reflect

by Dr. Mauraine Carlier

We all have days when we can’t bear the thought of pulling on our gear and pounding the streets or going to the gym. We’re human: sometimes we can’t wait to get out the door and get a sweat on, but then there are days when the thought of exercise fills us with fear and dread.

Sadly, research has shown that it is even harder for many women, who feel a lack of self confidence when it comes to exercise. Research has shown that women feel they are judged more on appearance than ability, which can have a major impact on your self esteem.(1)

Go out there and exercise with confidence

A number of campaigns across the world have done an amazing job of showing that women of any age or size can play sports. From Always’ “Like A Girl” to Sport England’s landmark “This Girl Can”, the message is clear: there is no sport that is out of bounds for you. You don’t have to be super-thin to enjoy running, or really muscly to enjoy lifting weights, it’s your workout, and your choice.

The negative effects of social media are often discussed when it comes to body image for women.(2,3) However, these campaigns have specialized in using social media platforms as a force for good to get their message across. #likeagirl has become a badge of honor for many women on social media now, while #thisgirlcan has attracted almost 3m new participants to sports.

First and foremost, sports is about having fun. If you are not enjoying it, the chances of sticking to it are much smaller. But if you can find the right sport – for both your body and mind – then your chances of benefiting both physically and mentally skyrocket.

Female runner pauses during a run

Building Self Confidence with Goals

A great way to get started is to set little goals for yourself. Walking and running are inexpensive and uncomplicated ways to incorporate more exercise into your life. The adidas Running app has a goals feature to keep you focused and motivated to reach your goals. You’re in charge: pick the time frame and the distance and keep track of your progress. Who knows, maybe one day you might decide to run a half marathon or marathon. 


Set short-term and long-term goals that are realistic and track your progress to stay motivated.

Love Your Body

Spoiler: there is no such thing as perfect. Don’t be put off just because you think you aren’t the right size, or other athletes have different body shapes to you: sports is for everyone to enjoy. Team sports in particular are a great start point as they make people feel part of a group, making them more relaxed and giving them confidence.

So often, women amaze themselves when they find out exactly what their body can do. Sports has the power to boost self esteem like nothing else, empowering you and building self confidence in everyday life.

Female running in city with adidas shoes

Simple things like wearing the right clothes and comfortable sneakers that make you feel good can have a huge impact on your motivation levels. Remember to go easy on yourself though – sports can be tiring as well as fun, so make sure you give yourself a break and take plenty of rest. Above all, try and have fun – then you’ll really be able to enjoy all the benefits of sports and be ready to tackle anything life can throw at you.

About Mauraine:

Headshot of the author Mauraine Carlier

Mauraine Carlier is a doctor in cognitive and sport psychology for Running Care. Her work focuses on psychological and cognitive factors predicting the occurrence of injuries in sports. 


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