About 9 out of 10 women over the age of 30 shy away from outdoor exercise due to low body-confidence and self-esteem, according to new statistics released by the UK mental health charity Mind.
Instead, many women choose to exercise at night to minimize the chance of being seen, or they simply avoid outdoor exercise altogether.
According to Mind, which seeks to promote good mental health and reduce stigma of mental distress, these avoidance tactics are unfortunate since outdoor exercise can be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety and is increasingly being prescribed as a form of therapy.
Researchers surveyed 1,450 women and found that when feeling depressed, women were more likely to choose the following activities over exercising: eat comfort food (71 percent), listen to sad music (32 percent), spend time social networking (57 percent), go to bed (66 percent), or find a way to be alone (71 percent).
The survey also revealed:
- Two out of three women feel conscious about their body shape when exercising in public;
- Many doubt their own ability compared to others; 65 percent think it’s unlikely they’ll be able to keep up in an exercise group and almost half feel they will look silly in front of others based on a lack of coordination;
- 60 percent are nervous about how their body reacts to exercise — how different parts move, sweating, passing gas or turning red;
- Two-thirds feel that if they joined an exercise group, other women would be unwelcoming and cliquish, with only 6 percent thinking they would most likely make new friends.
In response to these feelings, many women have taken extreme steps to reduce the risk of embarrassment:
- Over half reported exercising very early in the morning or late at night simply to avoid being seen by others;
- Almost two-thirds of women choose to exercise in a location where they’re unlikely to run into people they know;
- Over half don’t leave the home when exercising, so they won’t be seen — even though exercising outside is more effective for lifting mood than staying inside;
- 67 percent wear baggy clothing when exercising in order to hide their figure.
“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,” said Beth Murphy, head of information at MIND.
“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 percent 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 well-being.”