This article from Shape magazine reveals a health disparity between the sexes. According to a study from Preventive Medicine the average man gets more physical activity than the average woman. To people familiar with gym culture, fitness, or sports in general this is no surprise. However, it does indicate that women would disproportionately suffer negative health consequences due to inactivity. Osteoporosis, heart disease, obesity, and even neurodegenerative diseases are risk factors for inactivity. Oregon State University too a sample of 1,000 men and women According to the data which was not self reported women only got 18 minutes of moderate to intense exercise, while men went to 30 minutes in a session. The data was collected from accelerometers recording total physical activity. It has been recommended that people should get at bare minimum 30 minutes of exercise a day. The problem is women are not getting enough which puts them at higher risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and even depression. One in three women as suffer from metabolic syndrome. What are the possible reasons for this disparity? This question can be answered through sociological and biological factors.
The text cites “some evidence indicates that women, compared to men, have less confidence in their ability to overcome exercise related barriers.” At first a reader would be perplexed by what that means. To elucidate their is a prejudice and sexism against women who show physical strength, skill, and power. Simultaneously, women who do seek to improve physical fitness do have a lack of confidence at the beginning of their program. The weaker sex stereotype is still in the consciousness of many and some women are more vulnerable to it. This makes them believe their are certain activities they cannot do, simply because their biology does not allow it. The female body has been regarded as biologically and physically inferior, even though exercise physiology has discredited this notion. The gym and physical activity has been for a longtime thought to be solely a male domain. Gradually, with more women in sports this dated idea has diminished. Yet, sexist stereotypes and traditional gender roles still remain, even in an atmosphere of change. The idea that women can excel at something physical or athletic is considered unladylike. When a strong man shows his skill he is congratulated; when a woman does this she is condemned.
Unfortunately society judges women who are physically strong more harshly than men.
Muscle and physical fitness are seen as something male only. This effects the way women view exercise throughout their lives. Women may internalize such negative attitudes. While it has been known that weightlifting has more benefits, women may focus on cardio for fear of “getting too big.” With little encouragement and a negative atmosphere women may just stop an exercise regimen all together. There is a segment of the fitness industry that promotes weight loss for aesthetic purposes rather than health. The impact of body image is powerful, especially is one body type is constantly promoted in various media. If one is surrounded my one image or idea it can distort a person’s thinking. Too many women are attempting to change their bodies to an unattainable or unrealistic body ideal. Extreme cases lead to anorexia or bulimia, which occurs more in women. This is no accident and it is understandable why such a psychological disorder is prevalent. Women who have different body types are either disparaged or ostracized. Women who look different or want to alter their bodies are made into outcasts. If body image pressure is hard on the average woman it is even more intense on the female athlete. While there are sociological barriers, there are some that are biological. Male and female bodies are different, which means there will be a number of outcomes in fitness regimens. Women may have to adjust training to suit their endocrine and musculoskeletal attributes depending on what their goal is. Women on average have less muscular strength and aerobic capacity compared to the average man. Looser joints mean women could be more susceptible to injuries such as ACL tears. This does not mean women cannot handle exercise, it means it should be tailored to prevent injuries and enhance results. Some assume that women cannot gain strength or enhance fitness levels due to sex differences in physiology. Being female does not limit potential,because women can increase their strength and cardiovascular status.
This will take longer for women to achieve. There are women who get discouraged when results do not happen immediately and quit. Like weight loss regimens, if one is not consistent it will fail. There is a constant inferiority complex that some women might feel that if it is anything physical or sports related, they will fail at. This psychological barrier has to be overcome. Men do not have this problem, because they are not taught to view their bodies as weak. There are differences, but this does not indicate inferiority. Body composition, lung as well as heart size, skeletal and muscle mass just indicate that men have higher physical fitness levels. While women have shown they are capable, that does not mean they have acceptance in the gym space. Traditionally, women were excluded from these areas.
There were only some exercises that were considered acceptable for women. Most were directed at making sure childbirth could be easier. The professional medical community in the 19th century was not concerned about women’s health, just as long as women could produce children. They though rigorous exercise was bad for the female body and could harm her reproductive capacities. Such falsehoods were promoted by eugenicists and physical educators with the purpose of discouraging women from using their bodies. Although women had been participants in sports since ancient civilization, there has been a constant theme of women being discouraged from the use of their body. The exercise related barriers are present to this day, even starting at an earlier age. Girls are not taught to throw or learn other physical skills. If the do receive such instruction, it would only be in physical education. Even in that atmosphere the expectations are lowered. The physical standards for boys and girls in terms of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness Award differ.
It makes no sense that the standards are different between the ages of 6 to 13. The reason being is the endocrinological changes from puberty have not occurred. Some standards on the chart are the same, but others are not. Men do not start getting their strength spurt until the age 13, when testosterone production increases. This effects both the muscular and skeletal system giving men more strength. Early on girls seem to be viewed as not capable of playing sports or physical skill. This explains why “you throw like a girl” is used as an insult. There is a subtle sexism that remains in physical education and is much ore vicious misogyny in sports. Childhood experiences mold what type of person one will be as an adult. If girls at at young age are told they are not capable, they will not attempt try. For both boys and girls their experiences in physical education will influence how they feel about exercise and physical activity. If a PE teacher makes the class unpleasant or dull students will take that negative attitude into adulthood.
Exercise becomes associated with a chore or a pointless task, when it is essential to your health. The same can be said of children in youth sports. If soccer moms and football dads are too aggressive and pressure their children too much. This will only turn them away from such activities as adults. They should get from such activities how to work in groups and discover the joy of play. These exercise related barriers are influenced by environment and culture. Biology may also have influence as well. Boys seem to have more energy and it is harder for them to sit still. Girls seem more sedentary. It is unclear how much is this is cultural or biological. This may explain why to an extent more men gravitate to sports or physical activity. It has been suspected that their is a link between competitiveness and higher testosterone levels. These difference in behavior could be evidence of a human evolutionary past. Men’s desire for physical activity could have been essential in early hunter gatherer societies. Biology is important, but environment has just as great an impact.
Environment and duties were cited as another reason women had difficulty getting involved in exercise. Childcare was cited as the main duty that women had to do, which effected their exercise pattern. The world has advanced in some ways, but in others it has not. Women are still expected to do all of the child rearing, with minimal help. Life is harder for single mothers who face both stigma and lack of sympathy. There is another problem. Everyone may not have money to afford a gym membership or have access to particular facilities. It should be remembered that conditions vary around the world, even with rapid technological advancement. Women in other nations not only have to deal with childcare, but also financially supporting the family. This is the case in lesser developed nations in which the economy is agriculturally based.Women are to an extent privileged in the West. Daycare services may not be present in certain regions of particular countries.
While there are challenges for the global south nations, the first world nations have another problem. Modern society has caused a new set of health issues. Being overweight or obese has become more prevalent, seeing as technology has eliminated many manual labor jobs. A majority of occupations or professions do not require much physical activity at all. There are few remaining ones, yet these will gradually disappear when artificial intelligence and robotic automation become more advanced. Combine with a more competitive, fast paced, and regimented workplace severe stress and depression are ubiquitous. The slow paced labor of agricultural and artisan society was eliminated by the industrial revolution. This changed the health of populations , which can be seen today. People are living longer, but the price is that the chances of getting a chronic disease have increased. Abundance is not always a positive development. The surplus in food has made it so that eating out of boredom is a common activity. Unhealthy habits become stress reducers in a society that is too uptight. There are still large numbers of people who smoke and consume alcohol to excess, even when they know the health risks. Rather than just making time for exercise, mentality has to change. Dedication and discipline must be maintained to change habits. If you environment does not encourage will power or self control then it is more difficult. Time should not be the enemy; we make to for matters that are important to us. This can also be circumvent if a busy schedule gets in a person’s way. Using the stairs or standing can be enough to burn some calories. Short periods of exercise is better than nothing. Doing push ups or sit ups before bed could be useful.
Environment can effect health and exercise habits in a population. Increasing exercise can help improve health, but these gains could be lost if pollution and climate change effect the population. The daily routine of most people seems to involve too much sitting. A sedentary lifestyle causes numerous health issues. For women who on average live longer it can harm the quality of life.
As we age the body becomes more vulnerable to disease. There can be prevention through exercise and diet. Women have lower bone density. As people age ossification slows and cannot rapidly build bone mass as it used to. Women would be at higher risk for osteoporosis if they are not doing some form of load bearing exercise. Building bone mass is critical to skeletal health. Doing so allows people to be more mobile in old age. weight training exercise can also maintain muscular strength. Women would lose more considering they have less in terms of body composition. This can also be reversed through physical activity. Maintaining a functioning circulatory system also is essential to health. Heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure do not only harm the circulatory system, but the entire body. Blocked arteries can effect organs, which need blood.
It has been hypothesized that being active protects the brain from neurodegenerative disease. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have been increasing in elderly populations. Their causes are not entirely known or understood, but symptoms such as death of neurons and the loss of memory are common. This causes cerebral atrophy and the widening of the brain ventricles. There is a possible connection that a compromised circulatory system damage could contribute to neurodegenerative disease. There have yet to be precise studies, so it remains speculative. Having some physical activity may actually be good for your nervous system than previous thought. Not only that learning and keeping the mind active is just as pivotal. Excess body fat can put strain on the skeleton and possibly a risk for certain cancers. Joints are also put under intense strain from excess weight. Women are more at risk from gaining excess weight due to how food is metabolized in their bodies and the function of estrogen. Estrogen produces higher levels of fat, which means it is more difficult for women to lose weight. Even the slimmest or most muscular woman has a higher fat percentage compared to a man of a similar somatotype.
Other than the personal risk to individuals, there is the question remains of healthcare systems. If the population of a nation lives longer and does not have an adequate healthcare system, there will be a crisis. A huge population of sick people means it will be a public health crisis. Another troubling problem is that children are also having weight related health issues as well. Obesity continues to rise in the US and UK. This could be reversed not only with a change in diet and the reduced use of high fructose corn syrup, but simple exercise. It does not have to be intense. Simple walks or jogs could be effective. High fat and sugar diets are creating health problems in youth as well as adults. Women getting less exercise is a urgent health issue. Women’s health commonly focuses on pregnancy, diseases or conditions of the reproductive system, and differences in how the female body reacts in certain health and medical conditions. There should be more study and expansion to include women’s physical activity. The reason is that the health risk of physical inactivity would be too high.