There’s a reason more women don’t exercise (and it’s not what you think)
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Nearly half of women haven’t done any vigorous exercise in the past year, according to a new survey from Nuffield Health – and our desire to stay active has nothing to do with it.
Although two-thirds of the women interviewed for the Healthier Nations Index cited a lack of motivation to sabotage their fitness routine, on social media the women were quick to point out that it’s more complicated than that.
The survey is the latest research to point to a gender gap in exercise, as while 47% of women have not exercised, the percentages for men are lower, with slightly more a third claiming not to have exercised in the last 12 months.
On Twitter, author and journalist Nell Frizzell denounced Britain’s “unaffordable childcare system” for disproportionately restricting “women’s income, health, careers and freedom”. And she makes a good point.
The average cost of a part-time childcare place is now £7,000, according to the NCT, and two-thirds of families pay more, or the same, for childcare than they do for their rent or mortgage .
If you’re paying that much to go to work, you’re unlikely to shell out even more money to free up time for the gym.
In replies on Twitter, others pointed out that it’s not just childcare that’s holding women back from exercising.
We know of many studies that women still do the majority of ‘unpaid work’ in the UK, including caring for children and older relatives, in addition to house cleaning, laundry and meal preparation.
It’s not just about being financially poor due to childcare costs, it’s about running out of time due to the imbalance of domestic responsibilities in society.
Women’s lack of physical activity has absolutely nothing to do with their desire to stay active.
Anna Cargan, 35, from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, is a mother of three aged five, six and nine, and says she has joined and left the gym several times in recent years without using her membership .
“My husband works long hours for the ambulance service and I run mine small children’s clothing company,” she explains. “I try to fit all my work around school hours and the kids the rest of the time, and I never have time left, even though I want to exercise and I I have every best intention of doing it, when you’re so short on time that it always falls to the bottom of the priority list.
Ironically enough, Cargan’s children are very athletic and she says part of the reason she doesn’t have time to exercise is because she carries them to practice and soccer games. and rugby six days a week.
She also works full-time during terms, never taking time off while the kids are in school, so she can take more time during school vacations.
“If there were more affordable childcare for the holidays, I think I would find it easier to exercise, either being able to do it while on vacation or being able to justify taking an hour for me during term – instead of feeling pressured to work every school hour, knowing that I don’t work as much during the holidays,” she says. “It’s a bit of an all-or-nothing approach.”
This tricky program clearly has health implications and Cargan admits: “I know I’m out of shape.”
“I want to exercise for health and energy benefits because I know I’d feel better if I did,” she adds. “I continue to have good intentions – maybe one day I’ll prioritize that!”
Lorraine Marsh, a 38-year-old mother of a 10-year-old, doesn’t really think cheaper childcare would necessarily help her stay more active, instead pointing to women’s exhaustion to balance it all out.
“I used to be able to do yoga on a regular basis, but since getting into entrepreneurship and a start-up, I’ve found it so hard to commit to a routine,” says Marsh, of Royal Tunbridge Wells .
“I joined a gym for six months which was a total waste. I thought I could go while my son was swimming but no, I feel too exhausted after a full day of work. I manage a jewelry workshop which is open six days a week and meeting customers is always my priority.
“I’ve always been loyal to exercise and I know the benefits exercise has on my mental health,” she says. “I feel so helpless sometimes because I know it’s myself that’s holding me back. The urge is there but I feel like time is running out so fast.
Some moms find time to exercise, but that often means exercising during unsociable hours.
Sue Bordley, 50 and based in the Wirral, gets up at 5.15am because that’s the only time she has to swim while juggling her swimming book writing career and look after her children, aged 14 and 12.
“I go to the local swimming pool at 6 a.m. before starting work for the day, then I take care of my two children in the evening,” she explains, adding that her husband teaches karate in the evenings.
To help more moms get active — and allow her to set her alarm at a reasonable time of day — Bordley would like to see more options for moms who bring their kids to exercise classes.
“Things have probably improved in recent years with things like stroller aerobics, but that’s not good, for example, for a mum who has a baby in a pram and a four-year-old,” says -she. “Childcare facilities for women to exercise would certainly help.”
Move celebrates exercise in all its forms, with accessible features that encourage you to add movement to your day because it’s not only good for the body, but also for the mind. We get it: Workouts can be a bit tedious, but there are ways to move more without fear. Whether you like hikes, bike rides, YouTube workouts, or hula hoop routines, exercise should be something to enjoy.