Exercise is good for you. Yes, I know you know that, we all know that. And most of us know that it is also good for our mental health, even just getting out for a short walk at lunchtime is beneficial. It helps us think better and feel better.
However, recent research from Mind, the mental health charity, shows that despite we women knowing the benefits 9 out of 10 of us aged over 30 don’t want to exercise out of doors because we feel too self conscious about our bodies. Some even go to the extreme of only going outside to exercise when it’s dark, missing out on sunlight and potentially putting themselves at risk. I find that very sad but not surprising. We are bombarded with images of perfect airbrushed women and girls from an early age; no wonder we don’t really know what real women look like any more.
The Mind Research
Mind’s research found women, rather than exercise when feeling low, were more likely to:
- Eat comfort food (71%)
- Listen to sad music (32%),
- Spend time social networking (57%)
- Go to bed (66%)
- Find a way to be alone (71%)
The Mind Survey (which had responses from 14500 people) also showed that:
- 2 out of 3 feel conscious about their body shape when they exercise in public
- Many doubt their own ability compared to others; 65% think it’s unlikely they’ll be able to keep up in an exercise group and almost a half feel they will look silly in front of others as a result of being uncoordinated
- 60% are nervous about how their body reacts to exercise – their wobbly bits, sweating, passing wind or going red
- 2/3 feel that if they joined an exercise group, other women would be unwelcoming and cliquey, with only 6% feeling they would be very likely to make new friends
That really is a sad indictment of the reality of women’s body confidence. Maybe we should set up an exercise group for the uncoordinated woman, and we’d all wobble, pass wind, glow, and go left instead of right together (that left right thing – I never quite got it!) and laugh in the face of body fascism.
Have a Nature Date
Beth Murphy, head of information at Mind said:
“We all know that walking, cycling, even gardening are good for our mental health, however for many of us exercising in the great outdoors can be incredibly daunting, especially if already feeling low and self-confidence is at rock bottom.
At these times you can feel like the only person in the world experiencing this, but Mind’s research highlights that far from being alone, 90% of women are in exactly the same boat.
It’s time we start talking about how exercise makes us feel. We urge women to take the first step, invite a friend on a nature date and begin to support each other in taking care of our mental wellbeing.”
So, women, you know what you have to do. Throw self consciousness to the wind (possibly literally), find a friend, go for a wobbly, windy walk together and feel great!
Postscript – As an aside, did you see the wonderful Dr Mary Beard replying to her detractors on Twitter etc? She is currently presenting an excellent history programme on BBC but a lot of the chat about her centred not on her abilities as a historian, or her ability to get the Roman message across. No, it was all about her grey hair, for heaven’s sake! Her response? This is what a 57 year old woman looks like, deal with it. Go Mary!
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Photo courtesy of Gymnastic leotards.net
Posted on April 23rd, 2012 by Jane