Help feel fit, free and fabulous!

Sport England has announced details of over £154,000 of National Lottery investment into Fit, Free and Fabulous, a Hyndburn and Ribble Valley project to help women recovering from abusive or violent relationships regain their confidence and rebuild their lives.

The project will create opportunities for women to try a range of sports in a safe and secure environment, with the support of people who understand the specific issues they face, such as isolation, low self-esteem and poor body image.

The women will be offered gentler activities such as swimming, yoga and walking.

Then, as they rebuild their fitness and confidence levels, they will get the chance to move into other sports.

The project is one of 20 projects being backed as part of Sport England's 10 million Active Women campaign to encourage women with children and those from disadvantaged communities to play more sport as part of the drive to deliver a mass participation legacy from London 2012.

Figures published by Sport England in December revealed the size of the gender gap in sport.

At present, one in eight (2.761 million) women regularly play sport in England.

While this has increased significantly in the past five years, it still trails behind men's participation, with one in five (4.176 million) taking part.

Women from disadvantaged communities play even less sport, with less than one in 10 women taking part.

Fit, Free and Fabulous was developed by Hyndburn and Ribble Valley's (HARV) domestic violence team in consultation with the women they support.

Many felt that sport could not only improve their fitness levels but also help them regain control of their bodies and their lives, but lacked the confidence to take the first step.

Initial sessions will take place in the team's centre or with staff support.

Participants will then be gradually encouraged to make use of local clubs and facilities – helping them to connect with their surrounding community and feel able to take part on their own.

In addition, some of the women will trains as tutors and coaches to run sessions and take the project forward and further enhance their own skills and confidence.

Debbie Fawcett, the HARV domestic violence team manager said: "If you've been told you're fat and ugly for 10 years, or had to ask permission to go to the toilet, it's hard to suddenly put on a shorts and a t-shirt and play sport.

"Fit Free and Fabulous will not only help our women get fitter, but also gain the self-esteem and positive body image they need to rebuild their lives, raise their confidence, and feel part of a wider community."