The Exercise Gender Gap

Why it exists—and how to fix it.

By Kellee Katagi

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We hear a lot about gender gaps in the workplace, in politics, in fields of study. But recent research out of Stanford University, published in the journal Nature, shows a worldwide gender gap in another area: exercise.

Researchers analyzed data from 717,527 people in 111 countries and found that women tend to get in less physical activity (measured by steps per day) than men. And in countries where women exercised less, their obesity rates skyrocketed, even compared with men who had the same decrease in step volume (232 percent increase in obesity for women versus 69 percent for men). Another study by research firm Report Linker found that 59 percent of U.S. women don’t exercise at all.

The upside? As women, all the power is in our court to narrow this gap. And the solution is simple: Move more—even if that means simply walking to start. The Stanford study discovered that in cities that were considered “walkable” because of their layout, physical activity rates shot up and obesity rates plummeted—for both men and women. Are there errands you could do on foot? Friends you could schedule regular walks with? Could you build a few walks into your family’s weekly schedule? Or walk to the nearest public transit instead of taking your vehicle?

These changes may be small, but according to the stats, they add up to big results. After all, the study also concluded that physical inactivity leads to 5.3 million deaths each year worldwide. Don’t contribute to that statistic—instead, lace up your walking shoes today and get moving! I’ll see you out there.

Kellee Katagi is one of those strange souls who actually enjoys working out for the sake of working out. She’s spent most of her 20-plus-year writing and editing career covering fitness, nutrition and travel, as well as outdoor sports ranging from skiing to spelunking to street luge (yes, that’s a thing).


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