Selfies showcasing slim, toned bodies on social-media have a “negative impact” on nearly two-thirds of women, research suggests.
A survey of 1,962 women by the public body Sport England reveals 63% have been left feeling self-conscious after seeing the “perfect figure” online.
Of those who follow fitness influencers, nearly a quarter (24%) claim it makes them feel bad about themselves, with less than a fifth (18%) finding these social-media stars relatable.
Yet, when used for the “greater good”, the likes of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter can have a positive effect.
More than half (53%) of those who follow fitness influencers claimed they can be motivating, while 52% find them informative.
With Sport England keen to get the nation active, it asked the women what they want from social-media stars, with many saying they should ditch the glamour.
Nearly a third (31%) claimed they would “feel positive” if posts showed women exercising without make-up, while one in five (20%) want to see them working up a sweat while they get physical.
Others hope to see women candidly discussing what deterred them from being active to start off with, including everything from a fear of “not being very good” to the pain of periods.
The initial This Girl Can campaign came after research suggested three-quarters (75%) of women wanted to do more exercise, but a fear of judgement held many back.
The recent survey was carried out ahead of Sport England’s latest This Girl Can campaign, which aims to close the gender gap when it comes to sport and exercise.
“Social media has many benefits but, as these results highlight, it can also encourage insecurity,” broadcaster Clare Balding - a supporter of the campaign - said.
“This Girl Can helps show women of all shapes and sizes, women with loud voices and women with quiet voices, women who are aggressive on the pitch and the women who are quieter can all gain huge benefits from exercise and activity.
“I think more women would have the confidence to join teams or take part in active events if they could see images they can relate to.
“It’s important for all of us to try to promote a wider range of body shapes in the images we share to help more women feel the buzz and joy of sport and show This Girl really Can.”
Ama Agbeze, England Netball Team player and captain, added: “Despite being a professional athlete, I don’t always feel comfortable in the gym and very much relate to the body-confidence issues many women face.
“I want to encourage all women to exercise and embrace your body shape whether skinny, large, tall or round.”
Adverts for This Girl Can, in partnership with Sure, will be on TV screens from January 17.
“Since we launched five years ago, we're seeing more relatable images in advertising and social media, but there's a long way to go until women's lives are being shown in a realistic way,” Lisa O’Keefe, director of insight at Sport England, said.
“We've designed the new adverts to show things we're still not seeing, women using exercise to manage period symptoms or juggling motherhood, all while celebrating women of all shapes, sizes, abilities and backgrounds.”