By Rachel Moss
Across the country, women are less likely to take regular exercise than men, but the numbers fall even lower when you look at statistics for women from BAME backgrounds or among women in lower paid jobs.
More than a third of women with a South Asian background (36 per cent) are inactive – defined as doing less than 30 minutes of exercise per week – the latest survey from Sport England suggests. This is compared to 29.4 per cent of black women and 25.3 per cent white British women.
The large-scale survey of more than 185,000 people also identified that women in lower paid jobs are almost twice as likely to be inactive compared to women in senior and managerial roles (33.5 per cent compared to 17.7 per cent).
But Sport England hopes to change that with its new campaign ‘Fit Got Real’, which aims to tackle the inequalities in levels of exercise between different female demographics.
The latest initiative is the next phase of Sport England’s #ThisGirlCan campaign, which launched in 2015 and has since inspired millions of women to take up exercise.
Despite the success of #ThisGirlCan there is still more work to do. Research from the heath body shows that a mix of practical and emotional pressures, such as lack of time, fear of judgement and lack of confidence, prevent many women from being as active as they would like.
The insights also highlight that many of these pressures come from the way marketing, the media and TV often, portray exercise as being for women who have the money to afford gym memberships, expensive sports clothes or plenty of free time.
To combat this, ‘Fit Got Real’ is about celebrating real women of different ages and ethnicities doing exercise their own way – whether that’s running around a park pushing a pram, hula hooping at home or teaching themselves how to swim using YouTube – and sharing the message that no matter how unconventional, it all counts as exercise.
Caroline, 36, who stars in the new film, said as a full time carer, she rarely has time to herself and is under a lot of emotional and physical pressure. Because of this, she used to skip exercise, but she’s felt reinvigorated since joining dance and trampoline classes at her local community centre.
“One day I realised how important it was (for my mental and physical health) to spend some time on myself and, with the help of my friends and support groups in the community, I could see a way out,” she said. “I completely understand how easy it is to get into a routine of not doing much exercise, but I feel so much happier and healthier from being more active. Even it’s a quick run up and down the garden it’s better than nothing!”
Along with new adverts and an online film, This Girl Can’s website and social channels will showcase women talking about how they fit exercise into their lives, why they like it and the negative perceptions and barriers they overcame to be more active.
Jennie Price, chief executive of Sport England, commented: “There are some stark inequalities when it comes to different levels of exercise amongst women in England. Many of the pressures of modern life do not make it easy for women to have the confidence and motivation to be active.
“The health and wellbeing benefits of being active should be available to all women, and that is why we have a new message, ‘Fit Got Real’ to celebrate the creative and often unconventional ways many women are fitting exercise into their busy lives.”