So, aren’t women doing enough “vigorous” exercises? More than information we can dispense with | Alex Clark

IIn the latest round of scolding women and pretending that it’s for their own good comes the news that we’re not doing enough exercise – at least of the “active” kind. According to Nuffield Health, 47% of the women surveyed did not engage in activities such as running, swimming or class in the gym that would help them stay fit, mentally and physically; significantly more than men, of whom only more than a third answered similarly. Two-thirds of women and half of men reported a lack of motivation. Other reasons include not knowing where to start, and simply not having enough time.

To be clear, it is not Nuffield who is doing the telling – what more we might call the discourse that greeted their findings, which immediately began to discuss issues of childcare deficits and the heavy burden of unpaid work that still rests on and prevents women. From getting to Zumba. But while these barriers to exercise are clearly valid, they also reinforce the idea that we are failing to do something we should.

Despite my early and traumatic encounter with a jumping horse at school, I praise crunches, not burials. Taking care of your physical self is clearly worth it, especially when the march of time threatens with creaking joints and low energy; And we all feel better after walking (widely reported).

Perhaps it is the concept of power that motivates me to be careful, not least because it is decidedly subjective and does not take into account the starting point of the individual. For those who are unfit, or who have mobility and other health issues, calming someone down may be an elusive goal (ostensibly or literally). Nuffield recommends a gradual approach — working up to 10,000 steps per day by starting with 2,000, for example — but even that mile will be daunting for many.

Others have a more Bartleby-like response to exercise: they simply prefer not to, perhaps because of a deep dislike, or find it boring, or because their time is filled with things they consider most important. Perhaps, indeed, those things be Most importantly: it involves caring for others, volunteering to help those outside their circle, or even dealing with personal problems greater than flabby muscle strength. I describe it this way—rather than maintaining cardiovascular health or building core strength—because the lines still blur between fitness and showing the outside body to others, no matter how many recipes for chia seed smoothies the wellness industry pumps up. .

It’s hard, of course, to imagine the modern-day equivalent of American fitness trainer Debbie Drake, who in 1960 became the first woman to host a daily fitness television show and released an album titled How To keep your husband happy. (If you’re in need of padding between squats, take a look at her appearance on The Johnny Carson Show, where, in a yellow lacy dress and sheer black stockings, she introduced the talk show host, who at least removed his suit jacket but not his tie, In the magic of hip ripples.) But the message that, nowadays, keeping fit is primarily a duty of self-care, is often betrayed all around us, sometimes subtly, sometimes scandalously.

Thus, for example, the body-positive movement has to contend with the outpouring of interest in the health of larger women, when excavation reveals that interest. disgust and aversion.

Instead of despairing about our failure to measure, redefining success may help. In a podcast about books I offer, my co-host and I regularly start a two-minute conversation about gardening, and the horticultural item in our mailbag pretty much trumps literary. Although removing dead heads may not be vigorous, digging over a patch of vegetation is important, as well as mowing and pruning extensively around well-rotted compost bags. Why doesn’t that count as my workout, and raises me from my dark 47%? Like in the kitchen disco, pet bickering, countless trips up and down the middle aisle of the supermarket and wrestling with an oversized quilt in its cover?

Meanwhile, the world outside our bodies needs our attention: as nearly everyone has noted, we’re not doing well. A healthy body and mind may indeed help us overcome the challenges ahead, but self-flagellation certainly won’t.

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