The book that’ll make you sportier

20 April 2017 by
First published: 3 October 2016

Eat. Sweat. Play: How Sport Can Change Our Lives by Anna Kessel, is the book that’ll make you sportier.

As what exactly does it mean to be a sporty woman today? Over the last few years, exercise for women has gone mainstream, every week there seems to be a new fitness craze to try, boutiques stocking stylish workout clothing are popping up all over the high street and a quick scroll through Instagram delivers more #fitspo than you could ever ask for.

It all sounds great, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that women everywhere were working out and reaping the benefits that an active lifestyle brings. However, it’s arguably an illusion, because there are still so many obstacles for girls and women when it comes to sport. Despite a boost from the phenomenally successful ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, women are still less likely to participate in sport than their male peers, and if they do it’s more likely to be for cosmetic reasons than for the sheer fun of playing games.

Anna Kessel is one of the most influential women in sport, albeit one who opens the introduction of her book by questioning whether she could really write a book about sport. Reflecting on how ‘un-sporty’ she was, Anna hit on the very heart of the issue – women are constantly being defined as incompatible with sport. Alien. Odd. Other. Exploring this further, Anna explains how for women, exercise and sport are presented as two distinct entities, one acceptable and the other not so much. Exercise with the goal of physical improvement is revered, it’s what populates our Instagram fees, gets us in the gym and sees us splashing our cash on Lycra. In contrast, sport is stubbornly still cast as unfeminine. Sport isn’t about losing weight or looking good. It’s about competition, aggression and pride. It’s loads of fun, and it’s not for girls.

Our bland acceptance of the idea that women don’t like sport is actually a bit weird. As children we all play, it comes naturally to us, but at some point we begin to believe that it’s not for us and back away from the playing field. But why does it matter? Why do we need to feel like sport is for us? Because sport is powerful. Sport teaches women to take ownership of their bodies, it gives them physical strength and crucially status and respect. Sport helps women realise their potential. That’s why women need to reclaim sport on their own terms and discover the fun and fulfilment it brings.

Eat.Sweat.Play is a timely health-check on the nation and women’s involvement in sport, which sees Anna Kessel explore some of societies major taboos including body dysmorphia, periods, miscarriage, sex and even the gender pay gap. Eat.Sweat.Play examines why sport became to be seen as a boys club and tells the inspirational story of how women are finally reclaiming sport and, by extension, their own bodies.