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19 May 2021 | 11:11

Women in Sport has published new research into the relationship between the menopause and sport which reveals that too many women in midlife are missing out on the important benefits of physical activity. 

At present, a third of women aged 41 to 60 are not meeting the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines of 150 minutes per week of exercise and a fifth are not achieving even 30 minutes per week, according to Sport England’s Active Lives survey for May 19/20

To better understand women’s experiences of menopause and physical activity and explore what is really preventing them from being active, the new research – funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery through the Postcode Sport Trust – examined different aspects of their lives over a five-month period.

INVISIBLE

Eight out of 10 women who are inactive during midlife said that they wanted to do more exercise, but felt largely ignored, invisible and undervalued, and didn’t feel they have a right to sport and exercise. Women in Sport found multiple physical, psychological and social midlife and menopause factors are preventing women from getting active, and it has produced a Model of Midlife, Menopause and Exercise to explain the factors shaping women’s lives and how they affect exercise. The charity says that sustaining fitness and activity at this point can be life-changing, in relation to happiness, mental wellbeing and physical health, both immediately and into later life. 

You can read the full report and recommendations from the research on the Research and Advice section of the Women in Sport website

In light of the findings, the charity is now calling for action both within and beyond the sport and physical activity sector. It wants the barriers that women face to be acknowledged and addressed by society as a whole and with urgency. Women in Sport wants to see: 

  • Women inspired by expanded perceptions of what sporty can look like and the endless possibilities to be physically active. 
  • Promotion of sport and exercise by health professionals as a simple and accessible way for women to take better care of themselves at this life stage, whilst also overhauling education about menopause so women stop suffering needlessly. 
  • More and better workplace policies on the menopause that take into account the need for exercise to nurture physical and mental health. 
  • Men stepping up as allies to encourage their partners, mothers, sisters, daughters and female friends and colleagues to be active, adventurous, and have fun, and to support this practically, for example by stepping up to share care burdens. 
  • Midlife women more visible in marketing within the sport and leisure sector and communicating relatable benefits. 

To challenge the way women going through the menopause are portrayed in society, Women in Sport has partnered with Getty Images to launch a curation of ground-breaking images, video clips and short films – a selection can be found on the Women in Sport website.  They showcase women who have experienced menopause, illustrating the joy of exercise and how it changed their lives building community, friendship, adventure, fun and camaraderie.

CAMPAIGN

A campaign #menopossibilities will share these stories and bring to light the challenges, barriers and opportunities that this life stage offers. 

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of Women in Sport: “Women start out life feeling far too visible and dealing with a running commentary on their appearance, but by midlife have traditionally been all but invisible.

Women in Sport

“At last, our voices are beginning to be heard and the menopause talked about openly on the airwaves for the first time. In midlife, just as we face a pressure cooker of responsibility at work and time deprivation at home due to carrying the care burdens of the nation; our hormones start to play havoc with our bodies. Female biology and societal expectations combined can feel, and be, quite brutal. 

“As a result, all too often women are trapped in inactive lifestyles, just when we most need the joy and community of sport and outdoor exercise.  Women in Sport believes passionately that women in mid-life have a right to sport and exercise and it is simply wrong that so many women are denied the joy and health benefits this brings.” 

Click here to find out more.