New findings show women run scared from outdoor exercise
Posted Monday 23 April 2012
Today the mental health charity Mind releases new statistics showing 9 out of 10 women aged over 30* battle body-confidence and low self-esteem when considering outdoor exercise.
This is leading many to take extreme measures, such as exercising when it’s dark to minimise embarrassment, or to avoid outdoor activities altogether.
Outdoor exercise can be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety1 and is increasingly being recognised and prescribed as a form of therapy.
However, new findings for the Feel better outside - feel better inside campaign, run by Ecominds on behalf of the Big Lottery Fund, suggest that whilst many women feel unable to exercise outside confidently, they are missing fantastic opportunities to boost and maintain positive mental wellbeing.
Women are continuously confronted by health messages, advising them to get active to improve mental and physical health. The point is getting through as 98% of the 1,450 women surveyed were well aware of the research.
However the issue is more complex as inhibitions and low body-confidence create significant barriers to getting outside regularly, especially when feeling low.
Mind’s research found women were more likely to eat comfort food (71%), listen to sad music (32%), spend time social networking (57%) go to bed (66%) or find a way to be alone (71%), than exercise.
The survey also revealed:
- 2 out of 3 feel conscious about their body shape when they exercise in public
- Many doubt their own ability compared to others; 65% think it’s unlikely they’ll be able to keep up in an exercise group and almost a half feel they will look silly in front of others as a result of being uncoordinated
- 60% are nervous about how their body reacts to exercise – their wobbly bits, sweating, passing wind or going red
- 2/3 feel that if they joined an exercise group, other women would be unwelcoming and cliquey, with only 6% feeling they would be very likely to make new friends
In response to these feelings, many women have taken extreme steps to reduce the risk of embarrassment:
- Over 50% said they exercised very early in the morning or late at night solely to avoid being seen by others
- Almost 2/3 of women choose to exercise in a location where they’re unlikely to bump into anyone they know
- Over 50% don’t leave the home when exercising, so as not to be seen in public - even though exercising outside is more effective for lifting mood then inside
- 67% wear baggy clothing when exercising in order to hide their figure
Beth Murphy, head of information at Mind said:
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.
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% 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 wellbeing.
Sarah**, age 37, who has experienced severe depression said:
I have been taking anti-depressants since last February, but honestly feel that exercise has a more noticeable effect than the drugs.
I can’t believe I am saying this, but discovering outdoor exercise changed everything. I was petrified, I knew I would sweat, go red, have trouble keeping up and that everyone else in the group would be super fit. I was so incredibly scared and thought I’d be humiliated.
However – the other people in the group were all normal – all different shapes and sizes – and no one cared what you looked like or did.
It was the most liberating experience ever My initial reason for exercising was to lose some weight, but from that first session I realised just how good it cold be for my state of mind. From there my confidence grew.
As part of the Ecominds 'Feel better outside, feel better inside' campaign, Mind is calling for women to start talking openly about outdoor exercise, to take the first step and ask a friend to join them in an outdoor activity by sending a nature date invite at www.mind.org.uk/naturedate.
* Research taken from a poll of 1,450 people conducted via Survey Monkey between 13 March and 3 April 2012.
** The case-study’s name has been changed to protect her anonymity
- Halliwell E. (2005), Up and Running? Exercise Therapy and the treatment of mild to moderate depression in primary care, Mental Health Foundation, London
Notes to editors
- Research taken from a poll of 1,450 people conducted via Survey Monkey between 13 March and 3 April 2012
- Mind spokesperson and case study interviews available upon request
- For more information please contact the Mind media team on T: 020 8522 1743 M: 07850 788514 E: email@example.com ISDN line available: 020 8221 0817
- Ecominds is a £7.5million funding scheme run by Mind on behalf of the Big Lottery Fund. It funds environmental projects that help people with experience of mental distress get involved in local green activities to improve confidence, self-esteem and physical health. A total of £7.5 million has been distributed to 130 new and existing projects across England.
- The 'Feel better outside, feel better inside campaign' supports Mind’s lottery-funded Ecominds scheme. The campaign aims to increase public awareness of, and participation in outdoor activities in natural environments to improve mental and physical wellbeing.
- We’re Mind, the mental health charity. We provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. We campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. We won't give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets both support and respect. www.mind.org.uk
- Please note that Mind is not an acronym and should be set in title case.
Big Lottery Fund
- The Big Lottery Fund’s Changing Spaces programme was launched in November 2005 to help communities enjoy and improve their local environments. The programme is funding a range of activities from local food schemes and farmers markets, to education projects teaching people about the environment. Mind was awarded £8.8 million as a Changing Spaces award partner, to run its Ecominds scheme.
- The Big Lottery Fund, the largest of the National Lottery good cause distributors, has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since its inception in June 2004. It was established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.
- Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888 Out of hours: 07867 500 572
- Public enquiries line: 08454 102030 Textphone: 08456 021 659.
- Full details of the work of the Big Lottery Fund, its programmes and awards are available on the website: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk