Researchers have been studying the gender gap in physical activity for many years. Because of gender roles and responsibilities, women are less likely to exercise.
The gender gap in physical activity between men and women only widened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both men and women started to engage in more physical activity as the pandemic progressed and digital fitness options became easier. However, women still participate at a lower rate than men.
A recent poll found that more than half (55%) of women reported that the COVID-19 epidemic negatively affected their mental health compared to 4 out 10 men (48%).
It is well-known that exercise improves cognitive function and mental health in adults, and lowers the risk of depression in children ( 5Trusted source).
To recover from the stress of living with a pandemic, it is important to address the gender gap in fitness. Ultimately, this gives us the reason for optimism about the future of our collective well-being.
The new frontier in fitness
Digital fitness exploded as more gyms closed their doors and companies moved their classes and training to online platforms.
It was obvious quickly: The digital fitness boom could not only empower women to close gender gaps in physical activity, but also reduce the burden of the pandemic’s disproportionate mental- and physical burden on them.
According to Strava’s Year in Sport report for fitness apps, women aged 18-29 tracked 45.2% more exercise activities between April and September 2020 than they did last year.
Although women are exercising more, they still don’t exercise as much as men. There are some signs that digital fitness is opening up new opportunities for people who were previously unable to exercise or felt uncomfortable in a gym.
Breaking down historical barriers
We can continue to remove barriers to women’s access to exercise if we embrace and support digital communities for fitness. These barriers are a result of long-standing problems.
Physical activity is hindered by the high costs associated with it, such as equipment purchases and membership fees.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), women face greater financial barriers because their incomes are often lower than men ( 7Trusted Source).
These costs are particularly high for a single mom. This is why single mothers report significant barriers to exercise ( 8Trusted source ).
Although digital fitness can be expensive (e.g., Mirror at $1,495 plus $39 per monthly access subscription), many accessible and affordable classes and apps require that participants bring their own bodies.
The Global Wellness Institute’s 2019 Report attributed a large portion of global growth in yoga practice to its online availability of it ( 9).
The pandemic-induced rise in the availability of low-cost or free digital fitness programs offers hope for overcoming economic barriers to physical activity. 77% of US women have a broadband connection at their home, and another 15% have access through their smartphones.