Most campaigns that are designed to get women and girls involved in sport are gimmicky or unrealistic or just plain rubbish.


However, Sport England last week launched a campaign that just might work. Their new enterprise is called 'This Girl Can' and the 90-second advert features no models or elite athletes, just 'normal' women doing an array of sports, with the aim being that it will encourage more females into becoming active.

The numbers of girls and women taking part in regular sport are shocking. Just one in 10 girls under the age of 14 takes part in regular exercise and 2 million fewer women than men do regular physical activity. Yet Sport England found that 75 per cent of these women would like to do more exercise.

A major problem for girls and women is that "normal" women are rarely seen in the media. Rather, it is models who are freakishly skinny or elite athletes who have washboard stomachs and incredibly low levels of body fat who are most regularly featured. As good a role model as someone like Jessica Ennis-Hill is, aspiring to look like her is, for most people, as realistic and as attainable as aspiring to look like a Barbie doll. A body like the Olympic heptathlon champion's is so far from the starting point for the majority of women that there is little, if any, inspiration to be garnered from looking at her. Most people will never look like her and they know it.

And this is where Sport England's advert comes in. It has been viewed almost three million times and it features "normal" women of all ages, ethnicities, shapes and sizes taking part in swimming, boxing, running, dancing, netball, cycling and football . . . and it shows their bodies in all their glory. These women do not have a body fat ratio of 2 per cent, nor do they have toned and lean muscles. They have cellulite and thighs and stomachs that wobble when they move and make-up that smudges when they sweat. In other words, they look like most of the female population.

That Sport England recognise the almost immeasurable importance of spreading this message is a huge step forward in increasing participation figures. While winning medals and achieving success on the international stage are vital components of sport, the vast majority of people who take part will never compete in an Olympic Games. They won't even get close and that's okay.

Amid the clamour of those in power to count Olympic, World and Commonwealth medals, it sometimes gets lost just why exactly sport is such a good thing. The benefits of sport and physical activity for every single person, fat or thin, tall or short, young or old, can often be forgotten while we focus on women like Eilidh Child and Lynsey Sharp and Hannah Miley. And the simple truth that it is okay to be rubbish at sport is often ignored. We do not expect every person to write like Oscar Wilde or sing like Whitney Houston, so why do we think that everyone should be good at sport?

And herein lies the joy. To reap the benefits of sport and physical activity, you need not be any good at it. You do not even need to be average at it - participation at any level and standard will bring with it benefits. The confidence that an active lifestyle can engender, the feeling of empowerment it can bring, the improvement in mental state . . . and all this is before I even begin to talk about the countless physical health benefits.

Sport England's campaign features straplines like "sweating like a pig, feeling like a fox", "I jiggle therefore I am" and "hot and not bothered". The organisation found that 75 per cent of women are discouraged from going to the gym because of a fear of being judged. This campaign is different from almost every other in that instead of trying to promote sport because of how it will make you look, it encourages women to love their bodies for what they can do with them. Too often, sport and exercise are seen by females as a necessary evil rather than something to be enjoyed. This campaign aims to change that.

The long-term benefit may well be that if more girls take part in sport at a young age then more elite athletes may emerge. It is a numbers game; if the base of the pyramid is wider, then more will rise to the top. But actually, this barely matters. As important as it is for this country's elite athletes to win medals on the world stage, there are far more wide-reaching benefits for society of sport and exercise.

Sportscotland will be monitoring the outcomes of this Sport England campaign very carefully. And if it works even half as well as many anticipate it will, Scotland's national funding agency should jump straight on the bandwagon and make one of their own. Because it just might change attitudes of a few women and girls in this country forever.