The fitness gender gap has widened during lockdown
The fitness gender gap has widened over lockdown, with fewer women being able to stay active.
Since This Girl Can launched in 2015, the number of women getting active had increased by more than 500,000, with women’s activity levels at an all-time high pre-lockdown. However, women’s activity levels have been on a downward trend over the last three months.
At its worst, the gap between men and women had more than doubled to 10%, with only 30% of women doing the recommended amount of exercise a week.
Another worrying reality is that 80% of people who go to group exercise classes are women, so the extended closure of indoor facilities and swimming pools will mean that women will still be hardest hit even as as restrictions ease.
‘Women’s sport has been on the rise in recent years with elite sport more visible and activity levels of women rising,’ Lisa O’Keefe, director of insight at Sport England tells Metro.co.uk.
‘There’s still a gender gap with women and girls less likely to be active than men and boys – and this is bigger if you’re an Asian or Black woman – but it was shrinking prior to Covid-19 and we were seeing the highest ever levels of activity for women in England in our research.’
Lisa says that it is disappointing to see that this gap has widened again, and she says the cause is that the barriers that prevent women from getting active have been exacerbated.
‘Women are more likely to take on the lion’s share of domestic responsibilities than men and during lockdown, many took on the role of home-schooler, leaving little time for exercise,’ she explains.
‘There’s also the concern that women who haven’t been active over the last few months may struggle to return to their pre-lockdown activities, as a fear of judgement over not being fit or capable enough sets in.“’
Sport England have previously found that as many as 39% of women are put off from doing exercise altogether because of a fear of judgement, so any knock in confidence will likely be significant.
Lisa says that a vital step will be the easing of restrictions around the reopening of gyms, swimming pools and leisure centres, as soon as safe to do so.
‘With women making up 80% of group exercise classes, these are essential spaces for women to get active in,’ she adds.
‘We’re also about to step up our This Girl Campaign again with a focus on building and restoring the confidence that has been eroded due to the challenges caused by the pandemic.
‘We remain as committed as ever to ensuring women of all shapes, sizes, abilities and backgrounds feel confident getting active.’
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