Why Women Don’t Exercise Enough

Less than half of women exercise enough, says CDC

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Only 49.3% of women over age 18 meet the federal physical activity guidelines for 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity during leisure per week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Health Interview Survey of 2018. The CDC figures do not include activity while working.

Why are so few meeting the guidelines?

Fred Wilson, a certified fitness trainer in private practice in Camillus, said that busyness represents one of the biggest reasons more women don’t exercise enough.

“A lot of women have a job outside the home,” Wilson said. “Plus, they’re expected to do a lot of things women have always done traditionally like cook and take care of kids. The schedule demands are probably heavier on women than at any time in history.”

Some also care for elderly parents or disabled family members. With all of those responsibilities, that doesn’t leave much time for workouts. For some women, however, it’s a matter of priorities.

“If you’re interested in something, you’ll make time,” Wilson said. “The women who aren’t active, if they want to become active, need to come to the realization that the fitness lifestyle and getting exercise offers an awful lot of health and psychological benefits.”

He advises hiring a personal trainer or joining a gym with a personal trainer available to get both expert guidance and motivation to keep going. Plus, many gyms provide childcare.

When Wilson got in shape 15 years ago, he turned to a personal trainer for help.

“There are plenty of professionals who can steer people right and give up-to-date knowledge,” Wilson said. “The last few years have seen an explosion of information.”

For women who don’t like the atmosphere at the gym, or find exercise routines boring, finding a physically rigorous activity can help increase fitness. Dance, martial arts, skiing, hiking and a myriad of other activities can offer both engaging activity and movement. Some of these activities can involve the children. Or, women can use a jogging stroller or bicycle toddler seat for taking little ones along.

Trading babysitting duties with another mom trying to get fit can also ramp up the accountability.

Amy Bidwell, Ph.D., serves as associate professor and department chairwoman with at SUNY Oswego and is also a Wellcoach Certified Health Coach.

She said that logging hours and hours at the gym each week isn’t necessary to increase fitness. Performing smaller chunks of activity throughout the day may actually provide more benefit, according to current research.

“Doing it all at once and sitting 23 hours a day is more harmful,” Bidwell said.

She offered a few tips for fitting in more movement, such as setting a phone alarm to go off every hour and then exercising for five minutes.

“That intermittent exercise is more healthful that exercise all at once,” Bidwell said.

“For every hour that you sit, you negate 15 minutes of your long, once-a-day workout,” she said. “If you were able to get up every hour for 5 minutes, it will make a huge difference in insulin sensitivity, heart rate and blood pressure.”