Her Life Depends on It – Part 2February 03, 2010
After high school or college, finding the time, money, and energy to exercise regularly can be challenging, especially for women, even though the benefits are great. Juggling work, family responsibilities, community meetings, and long commutes can make it hard to squeeze in exercise without concerted effort. The WSF report found that girls and women from lower economic backgrounds face the greatest barriers to regular exercise because they have less access to sports and physical activities, and they suffer negative health consequences as a result.
Women also face potential harassment, assault, or murder when they participate in the forms of exercise that are the cheapest and easiest to do (because you do not need a team or playing court or field), like walking, running, bicycling, and rollerblading outside. Such harassment may make women decide not to exercise, especially if they cannot afford a gym membership or their own equipment.
What can we do to help all women have the time and resources to exercise so that they can reap the benefits?
Some companies are taking notice of the benefits of exercise to their employees (including fewer sick days and fewer long-term medical conditions) and are implementing policies to enable their employees to exercise. For example, some federal government agencies offer employees 2.5 hours of paid time to exercise each week. AAUW supplements its employees’ gym memberships and has a walking club that meets twice a week.
Some local governments and city planners have created and maintain parks and paths for exercise, and many high schools open their track and playing fields to the public on the weekends and over school breaks. Such initiatives provide people with many options for exercise and a way to do so safely and affordably.
I live in Reston, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C., that has gone to great lengths to ensure that community members have safe, clean places to exercise. There are wide sidewalks and paved paths everywhere specifically designed for biking, walking, running, and rollerblading. There are also several large parks with trails and well-kept public playing fields and basketball and tennis courts. All the high schools open up their outdoor sports facilities to the public on the weekends and in the summer. People use these facilities year round, even on the hottest and coldest days of the year. In other places I’ve lived I was harassed anywhere from a few times a month to a few times an hour during my daily runs, but in Reston, I have only been harassed four times in more than two years. I think the number of other people out exercising and the overall community support for exercise contributes to the reduced harassment.
Does your workplace encourage healthy lifestyles among its employees? Is your community conducive to exercising? How is it promoted and encouraged?