Pandemic hits women’s fitness hardest, with over a third reporting worse physical health over the past year

New research released today has found that over one in three women in the UK (37%) have reported that their physical health has gotten worse in the last 12 months, and nearly half (47%) have failed to do any vigorous exercise. Lower numbers of men reported the same impact, with 28% reporting that their physical health has gotten worse in the last 12 months and 34% not having done any vigorous activity in the last 12 months.

Our Healthier Nation Index also showed that women were more likely to report barriers to exercise than men, with 67% citing a lack of motivation compared with 51% for men, and 35% of women not knowing where to start versus 28% of men. More than half (55%) highlighted a lack of time due to work as a barrier, compared to 46% of men.

Our data also shows that nearly two in five (38%) of women said that they had got out of the habit of exercising during lockdown and were finding it difficult to restart, over one in 10 (11%) got into good exercise habits but struggled to maintain these and 14% gave up exercising completely.

We are partnering with Judy Murray MBE to highlight the physical and mental benefits daily exercise can bring, ultimately boosting women’s wellbeing. They are calling on the nation to #find5 minutes to incorporate physical and mental health into their daily routines, making simple changes such as getting off the bus a stop early, taking a flight of stairs instead of the lift or practicing a short meditation online.

Analysis from the Healthier Nation Index has shown that with just five extra minutes of exercise per day, the nation will be on track to boosting the 40-minute average exercise time meeting NHS recommended activity guidelines of 75 minutes per week. Our Find Time For Your Mind campaign aims to encourage people to spend just five extra minutes a day exercising to improve their overall health. 

We have a series of free to access articles and short videos available providing people with easy ways to start exercising and fit it into everyday routines.

Commenting on the findings, Judy Murray, Ambassador for the Healthier Nation Index said: “This latest data from Nuffield Health shows we face a really big challenge when it comes to getting the nation active, and women in particular are struggling to find the time to focus on their wellbeing. With the summer of sport well underway, there is plenty of opportunity to get inspired, so I hope everyone can spare a few minutes to find something active they enjoy doing, as well as finding someone that they can do it with. Exercising with friends helps me find both motivation and routine as well as providing an extra boost for my mental health, so I encourage everyone to gather friends and get moving together.”

Our Regional Lead for Clinical Fitness, Olivia Tyler, added: “As a woman working in fitness, I face the same barriers as others and know how hard it can be to find the motivation and time to exercise. Everyone has to start somewhere and even if you’re a complete beginner or reigniting a passion for fitness after a break, there is always an easy way to get started. 

“Just five extra minutes of exercise a day can significantly boost mental and physical wellbeing as well as help to overcome the initial fear of getting started, whether that is going for a brisk walk, taking up gardening or carrying heavy shopping bags home. We are committed to building a healthier nation with more equal health outcomes and that starts with ensuring everyone, whatever level of ability, feels able to exercise with confidence.”

More information can be found at

The #Find5 campaign is designed to help people proactively look after their wellbeing and kick start the development of healthy habits. If you need help for a mental health crisis or emergency, you should get immediate expert advice and assessment.

Last updated Monday 8 August 2022

First published on Friday 5 August 2022