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Posted Apr 25 2012 8:35pm

New findings show women run scared from outdoor exercise.

Posted: Monday 23 April 2012

Outdoor exercise can be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety1 and is increasingly being recognized and prescribed as a form of therapy. Today the mental health charity Mind releases new statistics showing 9 out of 10 women aged over 30* battle body-confidence and low self-esteem when considering outdoor exercise. This is leading many to take extreme measures, such as exercising when it’s dark to minimise embarrassment, or to avoid outdoor activities altogether. However, new findings for the Feel better outside - feel better insidecampaign, run by Ecominds on behalf of the Big Lottery Fund, suggest that whilst many women feel unable to exercise outside confidently, they are missing fantastic opportunities to boost and maintain positive mental wellbeing. Women are continuously confronted by health messages, advising them to get active to improve mental and physical health. The point is getting through as 98% of the 1,450 women surveyed were well aware of the research. However the issue is more complex as inhibitions and low body-confidence create significant barriers to getting outside regularly, especially when feeling low. Mind’s research found women were more likely to eat comfort food (71%), listen to sad music (32%), spend time social networking (57%) go to bed (66%) or find a way to be alone (71%), than exercise. The survey also revealed: 2 out of 3 feel conscious about their body shape when they exercise in public Many doubt their own ability compared to others; 65% think it’s unlikely they’ll be able to keep up in an exercise group and almost a half feel they will look silly in front of others as a result of being uncoordinated 60% are nervous about how their body reacts to exercise – their wobbly bits, sweating, passing wind or going red 2/3 feel that if they joined an exercise group, other women would be unwelcoming and cliquey, with only 6% feeling they would be very likely to make new friends In response to these feelings, many women have taken extreme steps to reduce the risk of embarrassment: Over 50% said they exercised very early in the morning or late at night solely to avoid being seen by others Almost 2/3 of women choose to exercise in a location where they’re unlikely to bump into anyone they know Over 50% don’t leave the home when exercising, so as not to be seen in public - even though exercising outside is more effective for lifting mood then inside 67% wear baggy clothing when exercising in order to hide their figure

* Research taken from a poll of 1,450 people conducted via Survey Monkey between 13 March and 3 April 2012. ** The case-study’s name has been changed to protect her anonymity Halliwell E. (2005), Up and Running? Exercise Therapy and the treatment of mild to moderate depression in primary care, Mental Health Foundation, London  

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