Overload and insecurity keep women away from exercising; find out how to reverse this scenario

Overload and insecurity keep women away from exercising; find out how to reverse this scenario
Overload and insecurity keep women away from exercising; find out how to reverse this scenario
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The clock barely strikes six before Cynthia Howlett jumps out of bed. After showering and having coffee, she leaves her children at school and heads straight to São Conrado beach, in the South Zone of Rio. She practices, among other activities, surfing, yoga or swimming. Only after making your physical exercises In the morning, around nine o’clock, Cynthia starts to think about work. Depending on the day, the 43-year-old nutritionist works at a clinic, schedules meetings, visits schools…

“Playing sport is as vital to my life as taking a shower or brushing my teeth. I can’t be without it”, he guarantees. “Just as people sit down to eat at lunch, I stop what I’m doing to exercise. Exercising isn’t just about burning calories. It also serves to provide physical and mental well-being. When I don’t do it, I feel bad and I can’t handle the rest.”

Cynthia Howlett is not alone in the crowd. A study with 24,700 participants, 16,600 of whom were women, reveals that when they exercise, they feel happier (52%) and confident (48%). It’s not just that. They also report feeling less stress (67%) and frustration (80%) when running or doing weight training – the favorite exercises of 65% and 50% of those interviewed.

The problem is that, according to this same study, 51% of them admitted that, for a variety of reasons, are slowing down their training or, even worse, giving up on working out. And more than half are dissatisfied with their exercise levels.

For nutritionist Cynthia Howlett, doing physical activity is essential in her routine. Although many women recognize that the habit brings happiness and confidence, a good number have given up on exercising. Photograph: Pedro Kirilos

“For almost two-thirds of women (61%), the maternity is the main reason”, says Constanza Novillo, marketing director at ASICS América Latina, the sports equipment brand that commissioned the research, carried out between June and September 2023 in more than 40 countries, including Brazil.

Professors Dee Dlugonski, from the University of Kentucky, in the United States, and Brendon Stubbs, from King’s College London, in the United Kingdom, who conducted the study, divided the “obstacles” that prevent women from exercising into three categories: emotional , environmental and practical.

Between the emotional obstacles, 42% mentioned that they do not feel fit enough, 37% admitted insecurity about their body and 32% reported the fear of being judged while working out. Among the environmental, the most cited reason was the lack of safe spaces (43%) for physical exercise, followed by feelings of intimidation (36%) and fear of harassment (32%). Lastly, the challenges practical: 74% reported a lack of time, 62% attributed their withdrawal to the prices of gyms (and personal trainers) and 37% to the fear of suffering injuries.

On the global average, the percentage of women who claimed lack of time, abusive prices and a feeling of intimidation to give up training is, according to the ASICS study, 74%, 62% and 36%; in Brazil, it is 67%, 60% and 52%, respectively.

The ASICS study endorses the results of another survey, conducted by scientist Bradley Cardinal, from Oregon State University, in the USA, and carried out with 1,000 volunteers: the professor concluded that, when it comes to physical activity, men tend to exercise an average of 30 minutes a day and women, 18. Cardinal’s study, unlike that of ASICS, did not determine the reasons why women practice less exercise.

In Brazil, the Vigitel survey, from the Ministry of Health, revealed that 45.8% of men practice at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Among women, this rate drops to 36.2%. In 2009, when the practice began to be monitored by the ministry, these percentages were 39.8% and 22.2%, respectively.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity (walking, cycling or swimming) or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (running, football or tennis) per week.

Triple journey

Taking care of children, whether young or not, is just one of the many responsibilities almost always performed by women. The other two are: working outside the home and taking care of the house. This is what economists call “triple working hours”.

According to data from the third edition of the study “Gender Statistics: Social Indicators of Women in Brazil”, released last month by IBGE, Women spend, on average, almost twice as much time as men on household chores and/or childcare – or other people in the family, such as father and mother. There are 21.6 hours per week, compared to just 11 hours per week. Black or brown women worked an hour and a half more per week than white women.

Another study, commissioned by an anti-chafing cream brand from IBOPE, revealed that only 50% of men actively participate in daily childcare tasks. Opera summary: there really isn’t much time left for women to practice physical activity or take care of their own health. An entire ecosystem needs to be adjusted so that they can move.

It’s worth noting that exercising is one of the essential pillars to maintain a healthy life. According to the WHO, the habit brings significant benefits to the body and mind. Dedicating yourself to physical activity, highlights the entity, contributes to the prevention and even control of problems such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Having an active routine also protects against mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

Among women who have not given up on leading a physically active life, 94% said they do so to control stress and 86% to sleep better. Outside the country, the rates are 87% and 68%. In Brazil, the favorite exercises are running and weight training for 79% and 68% of respondents, compared to 65% and 50% in the rest of the world.

Ideas for maintaining an active life

Cynthia Howlett does not have young children: Manuela is 16 years old and Rodrigo, the “youngest”, is 11. “Saturday and Sunday, when I have more free time, I like to take them with me. I play footvolley with Manu and surf with Rodrigo”, he is proud.

For mothers who have nowhere to leave their children, Constanza Novillo, from ASICS, suggests gyms with spaces kids. She herself, in addition to being an executive, is an amateur athlete. She has already participated in 5 and 10 kilometer races and is currently preparing to run her first half marathon in May. How does she do it? “I try to be creative. I fit my workouts into alternative timeslike car rotation”, he exemplifies.

Natália Leão and Nathalia Fuzaro are professional journalists and amateur athletes. Nati Leão practices surfing, tennis and running. Nat Fuzaro is a fan of triathlon – a sport that includes swimming, cycling and running. The two worked together in the editorial offices of Vogue and GQ magazines. Even back then, they liked to talk about how good sport was for their health, and how much it teaches them about courage, resilience and empowerment. Together, in 2020, they founded the Inspira e Transpira channel. The goal is to empower women through sport. “There is no single way to practice sport, much less the right way. What exists is your way”, says Nat Fuzaro, who usually wakes up between four-thirty and five in the morning to cycle.

Although he has always played sport, Nat Fuzaro only realized its importance in his life when he was forced to have a kidney removed in 2015. It took eight months before he started exercising again. “From then on, I became a triathlete, I debuted in marathons and I’ve already done a half-Ironman”, he is proud, referring to the event that consists of swimming 1.9 km, cycling 90 km and running 21.1 km – all on the same day and with a time limit for each modality.

But there is no ideal sport. There is one that best adapts to each person’s way of being. It could be football, swimming, skateboarding, surfing, volleyball… The list is huge! “Our body is not a machine. Flowing is better than forcing”, philosophizes Nati Leão. “If, that day, you can’t run for an hour, why don’t you do 15 minutes of yoga? If you don’t have the money to pay for a gym membership, why not invite a friend to go for a walk?”, he suggests. In the survey, more than a third of women said their friends are their most important exercise influencers.

If you are one of those people who doesn’t like working out in a gym, either because the monthly fee is expensive or because the space is intimidating, How about exercising outdoors? The tip is from Débora Rios Garcia. She is an advisor to Confef, the Federal Council for Physical Education, and municipal secretary of Sports, Leisure and Youth at the city council of Porto Alegre, in Rio Grande do Sul. It is clear that public spaces also need to be more inviting and safe so that they can feel at ease.

Resident of Rio de Janeiro, Cynthia Howlett exercises on São Conrado beach. Practicing physical activity outdoors is an option for those who don’t like environments like gyms. Photograph: Pedro Kirilos

When she needs to travel to São Paulo for work, Cynthia Howlett makes sure to exercise. She just swaps surfing on São Conrado beach for a run in Ibirapuera Park. “Including physical activity in your daily life is important not only to maintain your ideal weight, but also to promote mental well-being and prevent the emergence of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension”, explains Débora.

Every day, the Confef counselor walks and does weight training. In order not to lose heart, draw up strategies. The first of them is set realistic goals, that is, possible to achieve. How about, before signing up for the next São Silvestre, the most famous street race in Brazil, starting with shorter races? “Start little by little, very slowly. Set aside 30 minutes a day, three times a week, to exercise,” suggests the expert.

The second tip is do what you like: biking, dancing, skateboarding, yoga… No practicing an activity just because it has become a “fad” and everyone is doing it. The third and final piece of advice is to diversify. Doing the same thing every day can be an irrefutable invitation to give up. “Treat regular physical activity as a priority in your life”, he advises. “Don’t hesitate to take advantage of any and all opportunities to exercise. For example: is the elevator taking a long time to arrive? Take the stairs!”

Cynthia Howlett likes to exercise first thing in the morning when she wakes up. At night, when she is tired, she prefers to slow down. At most, she does yoga or stretching. She also has her infallible tips to avoid giving in to a sedentary lifestyle. Download apps gymnastics and do group activities there are two of them. In the first case, there is no shortage of options: Nike Training Club, Google Fit, Home Workout… “You do 18 minutes and you already have great results”, he guarantees.

In the second, anything goes: from family members to co-workers. “Alone, the chances of becoming discouraged are greater,” she warns. The nutritionist compares regular physical activity to the instruction given to passengers before the start of each flight: in case of loss of pressure on the aircraft, first put the oxygen mask on yourself and, only then, help the person next to you. “I need to be well to be able to take care of others,” says Cynthia.

The article is in Portuguese

Tags: Overload insecurity women exercising find reverse scenario

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