Almost half of British women do no vigorous exercise, survey finds

Nuffield Health data for past year suggests many lack motivation or got out of the habit during lockdown

A woman swimming at Parliament Hill lido in London

Almost half of women in the UK have done no vigorous exercise in the past 12 months with most saying they lacked motivation, a survey has suggested.

The percentages are lower for men, with just over a third saying they had not exercised in that period and half citing a lack of motivation, according to data from the healthcare charity Nuffield Health.

In the online survey of 8,000 adults across the country in February, 38% of women said they had got out of the habit of exercising during lockdown.

Eleven per cent said they got into good exercise habits but struggled to maintain them, and 14% gave up exercising completely, the organisation’s Healthier Nation Index showed.

Thirty-seven per cent reported their physical health got worse in the previous 12 months and 47% said they had failed to do any vigorous exercise.

When it came to men, 28% said their physical health had declined in the same period and 34% admitted not doing any vigorous activity in that time.

Sixty-seven per cent of women cited a lack of motivation compared with 51% for men, and 35% of women said they felt they did not know where to start when it came to exercise, compared with 28% of men.

Fifty-five per cent said a lack of time owing to work was a barrier, compared with 46% of men.

The NHS defines vigorous exercise as activities such as running, swimming, an aerobics class or gymnastics.

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The tennis coach Judy Murray, the mother of the Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and ambassador for the Healthier Nation Index, said the data showed a “really big challenge” in terms of “getting the nation active”, especially women, who she said were “struggling to find the time to focus on their wellbeing”.

She added: “I hope everyone can spare a few minutes to find something active they enjoy doing, as well as finding someone that they can do it with.

“Exercising with friends helps me find both motivation and routine as well as providing an extra boost for my mental health, so I encourage everyone to gather friends and get moving together.”

Nuffield has launched a Find Time For Your Mind campaign, which aims to encourage people to do five extra minutes of exercise a day to boost mental and physical wellbeing.


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