Women Are Having Their Ability To Exercise Destroyed By Safety Issues
Exercising is an important part of our everyday lives. Be it through going to the gym, playing a sport, going for a run, having sex, or anything that helps get that body moving.
Quite a lot of the time, we try to find innovative ways to make exercising a fun experience, but as it turns out, there is quite a huge gender enjoyment gap between men and women when it comes to working out.
Sports England’s This Girl Can campaign has revealed new research showing that 2.4 million fewer women find exercising enjoyable and satisfying than men do.
Enjoyment is one of the biggest motivators for people to take part in sport and physical activity. However, at the moment, there are less than 60% of women active compared to over 63% of men.
According to their research, the reason why women are less active than men is due to a number of emotional and physical barriers.
With the clocks going back back and the nights get longer many women are concerned with their safety when exercising alone in the dark winter months.#ThisGirlCan has five top tips on how men can help women to feel safer when exercising outside this winter. pic.twitter.com/9b68wtRaP7
— This Girl Can (@ThisGirlCanUK) October 31, 2022
Fear of judgement is one of the biggest concerns, with 41% of women fearing they might not be fit enough, while over 30% are worried about showing their body and what others might think of them. 38% of them have said that they feel judged while exercising.
So many of my female friends often talk about how they wish their gyms were empty and how they’re worried about people staring at them while they work out.
“I often see the reality of the Enjoyment Gap’s effects on women’s mental health. It’s not just that women miss out on fun, sociability and the healthy endorphins associated with exercise, though this is very important, but it can also affect their self-image and worth, leading to resentment and increasingly poor self-esteem,” explains Cate Campbell, a BACP accredited therapist.
Safety is also a massive concern, with nearly half of the women (44%) worried about sexual harassment, especially if they exercise outdoors in the dark, while two-thirds are worried about personal safety issues like mugging.
When HuffPost UK previously asked women how they feel about exercising outdoors this time of year, we were inundated with responses.
“I feel frustrated that men aren’t conditioned to feel the same concern or worry about exercising alone,” said Hannah Catrin, 25, from London.
“I wish that urban planning catered for both halves of the population, with better lighting and outdoor facilities.”
There are a lot of unseen psychological barriers faced by women in sport. Double Olympic gold medal winning boxer Nicola Adams, knows quite a bit about that.
“For a long time, there was very little funding in women’s boxing – so much so that the female fighters used to have to share one shirt in tournaments. I always tried to go first so it wasn’t dripping in sweat!” she said.
“I was called all kinds of names as a female boxer and even remember being regularly told to take up another sport or a different career. It’s no wonder there’s such a significant enjoyment gap in the amount of women enjoying exercise, compared with men,” she added.
This Girl Can recently launched a new campaign called This Girl Can With You, which is helping organisations close this gender enjoyment gap by developing solutions to bring about necessary change.
Speaking about the initiative, Kate Dale, director of marketing at Sport England said: “From safety issues to heightened anxiety fuelled by the cost-of-living crisis, the barriers faced by women and girls in 2023 loom large and are deeply embedded in our society. We are rallying the sport and activity industry to join us to close the Enjoyment Gap by making sure activities for women are social, suitable, self-affirming and safe.”
“We know enjoyment is one of the biggest motivators to exercising. So if we’re finally going to close the stubborn gender activity gap, making enjoyment more enjoyable for women and girls is essential,” adds Dale.
The gender enjoyment gap won’t be closed overnight, and there’s no single solution, because the barriers faced by women are a result of decades of deeply rooted attitudes and societal norms.
There is no feasible reason why women should enjoy sport and physical activity less than men. If exercising and sport spaces can create a better environment for women to thrive, it can make a huge difference in closing the enjoyment gap.