Why do women exercise less than men?  It's because we put ourselves last

Why do women exercise less than men? It’s because we put ourselves last

‘Going for another race?’ a school mother asked flippantlyhis passive aggressiveness barely masked behind his forced smile.

As usual, I wore my gym leggings on the school run. Partly because they’re so easy to put on in the morning, but also because most weekdays I train.

Let’s be clear: I exercise because I like this. Whether it’s a run, a weight training session or an online course, mentally and physically, it nurtures, calms and centers me. But lately, I’ve found myself minimizing my daily routine for fear of coming across as legitimate and selfish.

I’ve lost count of how many other women tell me they “don’t have time” to exercise and that I’m “so lucky” to be able to prioritize myself that way.

They’ll often follow this up with a complaint about how their partners spend their weekends playing golf, biking with friends, or training for a triathlon/iron man/ultra-marathon (remove unneeded mention ) as they resentfully drown in chores and childcare like it’s the 1950s.

With new research from Nuffield Health showing that almost half of UK women have done no ‘vigorous’ exercise in the past year, the gender gap in exercise is real.

Many women cite lack of motivation as a reason for not working out, and I agree that sweating isn’t for everyone.

What troubles me is the big difference in activity levels between men and women. The percentages are much lower for men, with just over a third saying they had not exercised in the last year.

Overall, research shows that women find it harder to start and maintain a fitness program, whether it’s a lack of time (55% of women, compared to just 46% of men) or a lack of time. motivation (66% women and 51% men.)

These statistics make for depressing reading. I have always championed exercise as therapy for body and mind, and we are aware of the many benefits of an active lifestyle. I don’t consider physical exercise a luxury.

So why do women seem less able to prioritize their physical health than men?

Of course, there may be financial barriers. Gym memberships and childcare are ridiculously expensive, but luckily all my kids are now in full-time (free) education and I haven’t been a gym member since 2005.

But it feels like there’s more to it. We women are notoriously bad at putting ourselves first. Last week I was chatting with one of my oldest friends over dinner.

As she lamented her husband’s latest fishing trip, she was on the verge of tears. She told me how bad she had been feeling lately, as her husband was heading out with his mates for a golf weekend in the blink of an eye.

I kindly asked if she had told her husband how she felt and was relieved to hear they had spoken about it, but I have plenty of friends who quietly seethe every time their partner smacks happily the front door on the way out, blissfully unaware.

Fortunately, my husband and I have a very different setup. Although I have three children, a career and a dog, I have always made time to exercise. When my youngest child was two I trained for the Brighton Marathon with two NCT mates dads.

Anna and her running friends

Anna ran the Brighton Marathon (Photo: Anna Bartter)

However, there was a crucial difference between us: I had asked my husband’s permission before entering.

I had had a candid conversation with him before signing up for the event, explaining exactly what it would mean for our family life during the five months I trained. It amounted to about five hours every Sunday for six weeks. That was enough for me to feel obligated to consult him, something that never crossed the minds of the dads I trained with.

I wouldn’t expect my husband to ask permission to go golfing or go for a run, but I certainly think it’s courteous to check in with your spouse before disappearing for eight hours – and I know my husband feels the same. For me, it has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with considering the needs of the other.

My husband and I have always been upfront and honest with each other. As I get older, I’m even more inclined to speak my mind, because I’ve learned that it’s far better to talk things out in the moment, rather than waiting for one of you to get to the point. boil – it will always end in an argument.

I wonder if “I don’t have time” is an easy excuse to trotted out, because it’s so much more socially acceptable than saying, “Actually, I’d rather sit on my butt and eat cake, I hate exercising”?

If so, then great! You do you. But let’s not lay the blame elsewhere. Let’s start taking responsibility for how our own lives are going.

Maybe it will just be give and take, but to get the ball rolling we need to step away from martyrdom and be clear and open about our feelings.

It’s boring and predictable to attribute feeling bad about yourself and not taking the time to do something we all need and (some of us) appreciate to sex.

The truth is…

Metro.co.uk’s weekly series The Truth Is… seeks to explore anything and everything when it comes to life’s unspoken truths and long held secrets. Contributors will challenge popular misconceptions about a topic close to their hearts, confess a deeply personal secret, or reveal their wisdom drawn from experience – good and bad – in romantic or family relationships.

If you would like to share your truth with our readers, email jess.austin@metro.co.uk.

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