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The clocks have changed, evenings are dark, and women are putting away their trainers until spring.
More than half (56%) of women quit exercising completely in winter, according to a new survey by Sports Direct.
Motivation is part of it, because when it’s cold and damp outside the sofa looks a whole lot more appealing. But safety is also a huge concern for those of us who like to exercise solo outdoors.
Seven in 10 women (71%) surveyed said the darker evenings mean they struggled to find well-lit running routes, and almost half (44%) said they just simply don’t feel safe running outside during the winter, whatever the time of day.
When HuffPost UK previously asked women how they feel about exercising outdoors this time of year, we were inundated with responses.
“I feel frustrated that men aren’t conditioned to feel the same concern or worry about exercising alone,” said Hannah Catrin, 25, from London.
“I wish that urban planning catered for both halves of the population, with better lighting and outdoor facilities.”
And yet, nothing changes.
Every year, circulate tips on social media telling women how to feel more confident when running in the evenings. If you’re a regular runner, it’s likely someone well-meaning has advised you to join a running group, stick to a public route you know well, buy fluorescent clothing, team up with a friend, keep your music low, or ask yours boss for an extended lunch break so you can get out in the middle of the day.
We’re not saying this advice isn’t helpful, but it doesn’t foreground our biggest frustration: women should not have to change their behavior in order to feel safe.
It’s why we were so glad to this video from This Girl Can this year, providing men with tips on how to change their behavior to help women feel safe exercising outside.
With the clocks going back back and the nights get longer many women are concerned with their safety when exercising alone in the dark winter months.#ThisGirlCan has five top tips on how men can help women to feel safer when exercising outside this winter. pic.twitter.com/9b68wtRaP7
— This Girl Can (@ThisGirlCanUK) October 31, 2022
The video includes tips for guys such as “keep your distance” if you see a woman out for a jog and “don’t comment”, even if you think it’s a compliment. Men are also encouraged to be “conscious bystanders” by showing women support if they spot harassment.
With the cost of living crisis causing all of us to cut back, it’s more vital than ever that women feel safe exercising outdoors, at a time when they may not be able to afford classes or gym memberships.
We’re glad to finally see the onus shifting in the right direction.
Now, could we get some decent street lighting please?
Move celebrates exercise in all its forms, with accessible features encouraging you to add movement into your day – because it’s not just good for the body, but the mind, too. We get it: workouts can be a bit of a slog, but there are ways you can move more without dreading it. Whether you love hikes, bike rides, YouTube workouts or hula hoop routines, exercise should be something to enjoy.
HuffPost UK / Rebecca Zisser