The gender gap in exercise almost doubled during lockdown despite a rise in running
In 2015, the wonderful Mel Bound created This Mum Runs to motivate women, and particular mothers, to get involved in sport and exercise. Five years later, Mel is running the largest running community in the world for mums, helping 100,000 women to exercise regularly and offering training plans and group runs among other support services. (You can find out more about this in her inspirational interview on Episode 3 of the Women’s Running podcast).
During lockdown we’ve seen a huge uptake in running, with almost a million downloads of the NHS Couch to 5K app between March and June 2020. Despite this, the gender gap in exercise has almost doubled in the UK, with only 24% of women doing the recommended amount of exercise per week according to a study by Sport England.
More worryingly, 75% of women admitted to avoiding exercise for fear of what others will think. With more women taking on childcare and homeschooling duties during lockdown, often while managing full-time work, this is an added pressure that will only serve to discourage women from improving their physical and mental wellbeing through sport.
This Mum Runs is committed to supporting women through exercise regardless of their fitness level. 58% of women want to increase the amount that they exercise, so the drive exists, but a lack of confidence or freedom to run gets in the way and This Mum Runs is here to help.
Thanks to funding from The National Lottery and Sport England, This Mum Runs will be able to expand both their digital and physical communities.
This funding has contributed to making the This Mum Runs Run30 app free to download, helping more women to make the transition from running for one minute to 30 minutes non-stop. Recognised by Apple as ‘one of the hottest apps in the UK’ since its launch this April, the app has been created by Mums for Mums and developed by the award-winning team at Headspace. It includes daily coaching videos from TMR founder Mel Bound, and is packed full of advice from experts in women’s health as well as shared experience from women who have already completed the programme. With videos and sessions carefully planned out to aid the return to physical activity, it’s like having your very own running coach on your shoulder as you build up fitness and progress through the sessions with encouragement and the opportunity to circle back and repeat sessions if life gets in the way. There are 24 sessions in total, and they start with one minute of running, progressing up to 30 minutes of continuous running. The programme is focused on time spent running rather than distance or speed, which have been known as points of failure for many taking up running.
As we emerge from lockdown, the funding should also help to mobilise and grow the physical communities who, before the pandemic hit, benefitted from twice weekly group runs in 60 locations across the country. Each of these locations will now also have private online social group where women can seek friendship, support and understanding from their running peers.
Mel Bound said of the funding: “The TMR community exists to empower mums to feel healthier and happier, to drive societal change around how women feel about themselves and about exercise. Mums already faced significant emotional, physical and practical barriers to exercise with the challenges of busy lives, and it’s been alarming to see inactivity amongst women increase due to coronavirus.
“On behalf of everyone in the TMR community I would like to offer sincere thanks to Sport England and The National Lottery and its players for the funding which will give us an opportunity to really accelerate our community expansion and focus on our mission to support Mums to be active which is needed now more than ever. It’s been a privilege to get so many women moving and this funding gives us a wonderful opportunity to help Mums get active, feel physically stronger and reclaim some precious time for themselves – principles that are at the heart of This Mum Runs.”