Sunday, July 24, 2011

Inactivity: It's not just for British women anymore

Is it possible? Are American women's life spans going to dip below those of our mothers' because we don't work out?

Apparently it is possible, according to a study out of the University of Washington.

Not good news for American women. This study follows a report out of Britain a few years ago which showed a dearth of sporting activity among girls and women.

So what's it all about? According to this article, time and money. Because even while we promote Title IX and advocate for equal opportunities for girls, when adulthood hits, exercise is one of the first things to go. Assuming it was ever there at all. But this article says that even adult women who were once quite active, sacrifice exercise when things (i.e. motherhood plus work plus domestic duties plus attempt at salvaging a social life) get busy.
And then when mid-life hits, the effects of a less active life really come into play.
While I sympathize with the issue of making time for exercise when a woman becomes a mother and has even more to juggle, I wasn't too pleased at the way this article presented the issue.
Though the issue of class and access to exercise was mentioned, the woman who was interviewed as being the epitome of this problem (active early in adulthood but then had two kids and a husband) seemed pretty privileged. That she had her second child at age 41 and was married and working suggests a lot of things. She was financially secure. She had good health care. She had control over her reproduction. She had access to exercise, but she chose not to prioritize it. While I agree that prioritizing exercise can be difficult, it is a privilege to have the ability to even consider it as an option.
The article talks about how this lack of physical activity marks a reversal of progress in public health. But it doesn't talk about which groups of women are most affected by this reversal. It is not the white, middle-class mother who is suffering the most. White, middle-class women with two or more children are all over my white, middle-class gym.
Obesity is an issue of class. Poverty means less access: to nutritious food, to exercise (through gyms or recreational sports), to time (because of lack of affordable child care and working more hours for less pay), to healthcare.
I do not think it is the soccer moms, as the article implies, that are at the greatest risk here.

No comments: