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?

“They have so many things going on,” said Vincent Mangione owner of Kenmore Barbell & Fitness in Buffalo. “It could be moms who are too busy to make times for themselves or look after others before themselves.”

Many women perform the lion’s share of housework while still taking care of the children and working full time. Some also care for elderly parents or disabled family members. That doesn’t leave much time for workouts.

Most women may safely engage in moderate exercise during pregnancy under their physician’s advice, especially if they had been exercising before pregnancy; however, some are advised to go on bed rest, which can sideline their fitness efforts.

For some women, their type of exercise isn’t advisable during pregnancy, such as activities that may cause falls or blows to the abdomen. Unless that activity is replaced with something suitable, those women may remain inactive throughout their pregnancy and beyond.

Phil Haberstro, executive director of Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo, believes that several factors can contribute to inactivity among women.

One example is the social pressure that may deter women from some fitness pursuits.

“A lot of women won’t go to a gym because they’re conscious of their appearance,” Haberstro said. “That can be a deterrent. That has placed an extraordinary burden on women.”

Walking can provide an easier way for some women to obtain some physical activity, as it’s free, easy for most people to do, and may be done with children and across one’s lifespan; however, for women, a safe place to walk may not be available.

Since women are perceived as an easier target for crime, “access to safe parks is especially important for women,” Haberstro said.

Some communities also lack sidewalks accessible to jogging stroller or lack sidewalks in many areas altogether. That can make it tough for young moms to get moving.

It may not be hours at a gym, but women can get more movement in their week. Engaging in an activity the children can join in may make it easier for women to get fit, whether it’s playing football in the yard or working out at a gym that welcomes children.

Gina Martino Trubits, a Lancaster resident, has tried many fitness activities, including walking, spinning, yoga, CrossFit, running and, most recently, power lifting.

“Sometimes women don’t realize how much stuff is out there,” she said. “Find something you’ll stick with. There are so many fun things.”

She encourages women to try a free class or a different gym until they find something that fits. Larger gyms may have greater availability of classes to try, but she prefers a smaller, more close-knit gym for the camaraderie.

“There’s something out there for everyone,” she said. “If nothing else, go for a walk. There are so many walking trails.”