So women aren’t doing enough “vigorous” exercise? We can do without further boasting | Alex Clark

In the latest round of berating women and pretending it’s for their own good, news comes that we’re not exercising enough — at least not in the “vigorous” kind. According to Nuffield Health, 47% of the women surveyed had no activities such as running, swimming, or a class at the gym that would help them stay physically and mentally fit and healthy; significantly more than men, of whom just over a third reacted similarly. Two thirds of the women and half of the men mentioned a lack of motivation; other reasons were not knowing where to start and just not having enough time.

To be clear, it’s not Nuffield calling the shots – rather what we might call the discourse that welcomed their findings, which immediately began discussing issues of childcare and the heavier burden of unpaid work that continues to mount Women are burdened and prevent them from going to Zumba. But while these impediments to movement are proven to be valid, they also reinforce the idea that we’re not doing something we should.

Despite an early and traumatic encounter with a school vaulting horse, I come to praise crunches, not bury them. Taking care of your physical well-being is clearly worthwhile, especially when the passage of time threatens creaking joints and energy slumps; and we all feel better after an invigorating walk (it’s widely reported).

It is perhaps the notion of vitality that makes me cautious, not least because it is certainly subjective and does not take into account an individual’s starting point. For those who are unfit or have mobility or other health issues, cooling a person down can present an unattainable goal (apparent or actual). Nuffield recommends an incremental approach — work your way up to your daily 10,000 steps by starting with 2,000, for example — but even that rough mile will be daunting for many.

Others have a more Bartleby-like reaction to exercise: they simply would rather not do it, perhaps out of internal dislike, or they find it boring, or because their time is filled with things they consider more important. Maybe, indeed, these things are more importantly, they involve caring for others or volunteering to help those outside your circle, or even tackling personal problems larger than flaccid muscle tone. I put it this way — rather than maintaining cardiovascular health or building core muscle — because no matter how many chia seed smoothie recipes the wellness industry pumps out, the lines between physical fitness and showing off your body to others are still blurred .

It’s hard, of course, to imagine a modern-day equivalent of American fitness trainer Debbie Drake, who became the first woman to host a daily fitness TV show and release an album entitled, in 1960 As to make your husband happy. (If you need a nudge between squats, check out her performance on The Johnny Carson Show, where in a ruffled yellow leotard and sheer black tights, she introduced the talk show host who was the least in his suit jacket , but not his tie, into the magic of hip curves.) But the message that keeping fit today is above all a duty of self-care is so often betrayed around us, sometimes subtle, sometimes egregious.

For example, the body positivity movement must address concerns about the health of taller women when mere excavation reveals those concerns as disgust and disgust.

Instead of despairing of our own failures, it might help to redefine success. On a podcast about books I feature, my co-host and I regularly start with a two-minute chat about gardening, and the gardening element of our inbox far outweighs the literary. While deadheading might not be vigorous, digging over a vegetable patch certainly is, as is mowing and extensive pruning and hopping around sacks of well-rotted manure. Why shouldn’t that count as my exercise and set me apart from the deranged 47%? Ditto for the kitchen disco, pet wrangling, the countless trips down the supermarket aisle, and wrestling a super-king-size duvet into her cover?

Meanwhile, the world outside of our bodies needs our attention: as almost everyone has noticed, we’re not doing so well. A healthy body and mind might indeed help us meet the challenges ahead, but self-flagellation certainly won’t.

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