This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

Why Women Need To Prioritise Their Fitness Now More Than Ever

Today kicks off Women’s Health Week.

Monday is the start of Women's Health Week and it couldn't have come at a better time.

The Jean Hailes Woman's Health Survey of just over 10,000 women in Australia found that, among other things, approximately 60 percent of women are not taking part in at least 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity per week. Being too tired and lack of time are the main reasons given for this.

"Women always put themselves last. If something happens in the family or the kids are sick, the first thing that is cut out is going to the gym," Fernwood founder Diana Williams told HuffPost Australia.

Williams, an ambassador for Women's Health Week, founded Australia's women only gym franchise back in 1989 and is passionate about educating women on how being healthy can impact their lives, far beyond just looking good.

"Women really need to take some time out for themselves. It's important for them but also their family. There tends to be this feeling that has been passed down from our grandmothers to our mothers, that the woman needs to be there first for their family, and they themselves come last," Williams said.

This doesn't just apply to women with families but also women who are busy or have a lot of work.

"Women might cancel a gym class or training session and see it as just one session, but what they might not understand is that there's a knock on effect and that going to the gym is going to give them more time in other areas because they will have more energy, they will be feeling better about themselves and their lives will feel more structured."

"This doesn't just apply to women with families but also women who are busy or have a lot of work. If that's the case then exercise will help you work better, be more efficient and be able to cope better."

The study also revealed that around 40 percent of women have been professionally diagnosed with depression or anxiety. Women aged 18 to 35 are the most anxious age group among women in Australia, experiencing 'mild' levels of anxiety. Nearly half of women reported that on several days they may worry excessively about different things, become easily annoyed or distracted or have trouble sleeping.

This is a great start, although then you need to get moving.
PeopleImages via Getty Images
This is a great start, although then you need to get moving.

"The stats around the amount of women who have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression are really shocking, and it's important to note that those numbers are the diagnosed ones -- that doesn't cover the people who haven't been to be checked or been to seek help. If you take that into account it is probably a much larger percentage. It's clear from this that we need to teach women coping mechanisms so that they can deal with the issues they face in their lives," Williams said.

"In my work I have found that even with women who have a weight problem, it comes back to them feeling anxious or feeling tired, feeling stressed or making the wrong choices -- so it really is about an overall impact to wellness and mindfulness, not just about fitness."

The study also uncovered that women are actively seeking credible information around wellness, with the top two requested topics being mindfulness and health eating.

"If women get their mindfulness and their emotional intelligence in check so that they can make the right decisions and deal with their emotions then they are more likely to make better food choices and decisions when it comes to fitness and exercises. I truly believe it has a lot to do with the state of one's mental health that is the key to fitness and feeling good about themselves," Williams said.

It's important.
Lesly B Juarez Unsplash
It's important.

Williams first created a space for women to work out because back then the weights section of a gym was seen as a man's domain and women were mostly left to do aerobics. While she says that that's changed and women now have more fitness options than ever before, the current challenge is overcoming the impossible body image standards imposed by the #fitspo generation on Instagram.

"While it really is affecting the younger generation it still touches all women. These women are left feeling insecure and can develop poor self body image because of the images that are portrayed. It's yet another reason for them to feel anxious, but sadly we can't get rid of it -- social media is going to remain so I don't know that there's a solution to it other than coming up with a coping mechanisms so that when they see that sort of thing they can put it in perspective."

As for women who have fallen so far off the fitness wagon they find the thought of starting again too daunting, William suggests taking it slow and finding what you actually enjoy.

"I think it's about exploring options. There's so many, so try different things -- it might be a yoga class or a short session. It doesn't have to be a full on hardcore workout. It's all about getting started and getting into routine, even if that's only one session a week or a fews short sessions. It's all about creating habits."

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