Women have 'right' to be active in midlife, says charity

Women in Sport has unveiled a five-point action plan to combat the challenges and barriers in midlife which leave women “all but invisible” when it comes to participation in sport and physical activity.

The plan follows research into the impact of the menopause which, the charity says, sees “far too many” women missing out on the social, psychological and physical health benefits of being active. 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.

Women in Sport’s research was conducted over a five-month period to fully understand women’s experiences of menopause and physical activity and explore what is preventing them from being active. See the full report and recommendations from the research on the Research and Advice section of the Women in Sport website.

The charity has produced a Model of Midlife, Menopause and Exercise to explain the factors shaping women’s lives and how they affect exercise, and says it 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.

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.

“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 midlife 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.”

The charity has also partnered with Getty Images to launch a curation of images, video clips and short films which showcase women who have experienced menopause, illustrating the joy of exercise and how it changed their lives building community, friendship, adventure, fun and camaraderie.

A campaign entitled #menopossibilities will share these stories and bring to light the challenges, barriers and opportunities that this life stage offers. A selection of the imagery and accompanying case studies can be seen on the Women in Sport website.

Visit the Women in Sport page on the ConnectSport directory to find out more. To add your page for free, contact hello@connectsport.co.uk.