Women & exercise
Statistics tell us that Canadian women and girls are less physically active then men and boys. Most of us are not physically active enough to achieve the health benefits that being physically active can provide.
The Canadian Physical Activity guidelines for adults recommend:
at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity per week, in 10 minute or more time periods.
Estimates show approximately 14 out of 100 Canadian women meet these recommendations.
Research suggests women often engage in different types of exercise and face different barriers to getting exercise than men.
When asked, women in Canada report that the most common activities they enjoy include:
It can be challenging for women to find the time for exercise given the social and economic realities of our lives. Many women, for example, combine both paid work (a job) and unpaid work (housework, childcare) in the home.Barriers to being physically active include:
- being the primary caregiver to children and aging adults
- lack of time
- lack of money
- lack of access to fitness and recreational centres
- lack of safe facilities or safe neighbourhoods.
Research shows older women, physically challenged women, women with lower incomes or who are newcomers are the least physically active due to the many different social, economic and access barriers they experience.
Many women have a complex relationship with exercise, body image and self-esteem. This is in part because the media, reflecting social values:
body standards for women
minimizes other benefits of physical activity like health improvement, making social connections, having fun, etc.
promotes “working out” as a way to lose weight and improve a woman’s appearance
emphasizes dieting as the best method of weight control.
Women often report that the primary reason for participating in fitness programs is to lose weight and improve appearance. This may lead to a loss of self-esteem if a woman does not lose weight or she is unable to shape her body to meet society’s standards.
If you struggle with your body image, get support. Talk to your healthcare provider or find resources and support groups in your community.
Physical activity offers health benefits for everyone. However, you may not be able to follow general recommendations for physical activity if you have mobility issues or a chronic illness like osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
Women are more likely to experience mobility issues or chronic conditions than men, especially with age. Regular exercise can help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Talk to your healthcare provider to find out what exercises are safe for you to do.
Visit Living with Illness for more information about living with a chronic condition.