WOMEN and girls from across the borough are being invited to attend female-only sessions at Tonbridge Swimming Pool.
As part of the nationwide This Girl Can campaign, every Thursday night, only women are allowed to use the pool between 8pm-10pm.
Female-only sessions were already in existence at the pool but since being attached to the campaign, attendance has increased 70 per cent between January and February, from 100 to 170 in the first three weeks of the month.
Attempts are made to ensure female lifeguards cover the evening but are not guaranteed.
A free women-only running group has also been established, leaving the swimming pool at 9.30am every Wednesday.
Natalie Smith, Health and Wellbeing Coordinator for tmactive, who run the pool, said: “The session is aimed to help overcome the fear and judgement that prevents women from taking part in exercise.
“We ran the sessions before but we decided to attach it to the campaign to give it more meaning. We really want to emphasise the health benefits but also the social aspect.”
When asked why female-only events were necessary, Ms Smith replied: “Women tend to be a lot more self-conscious so it definitely helps to have just other women around.
“Especially with swimming, obviously you are not wearing much. With running, if you are just a beginner and out in public you may worry about how you look.
“But the evidence shows that women feel more comfortable in a group.”
Similar sessions are popular elsewhere – Crowborough’s Freedom Leisure Centre run a women’s only hour on Tuesday nights (8pm-9pm).
Thomas Wheeler, who used to be a lifeguard at the centre said the sessions were ’really successful’, adding: “It became a women’s social thing. Lots of women who said they were self-conscious or had religious beliefs were more comfortable without men in the pool.
“We never had any complaints from male swimmers either to be honest. I always thought it was weird before I saw how popular it was when I started working.”
More than a third of women said they had suffered some form of sexual harassment while running on their own – and that it had made them think twice before doing it again.
The fear of unwanted attention affected even more women, with nearly two-thirds revealing they felt anxious while out jogging.
More than half – 56 per cent – said running with others would make them feel safer.
The findings were revealed earlier this year in a survey of 2,000 women by England Athletics, the sport’s governing body.