The toll COVID-19 has taken on Australian women’s health and fitness revealed in the 2022 Jean Hailes National Women’s Health Survey, nearly one in five women reported loss of fitness, weight gain, and muscle and joint pain.
The survey, which was conducted in March and May and attracted more than 14,000 participants, revealed that 30% of women said they were less fit, 28% said they gained weight, and 20% said they had muscle and joint pain.
The results are not surprising. Women took over a greater share of the housework, childcare, and homeschooling, as well as running their own business after the arrival of the pandemic. This burden of care, as well as facility closures, has meant that many have had to forgo regular fitness regimes such as working out in the gym, swimming, yoga or Pilates.
“I experienced significant joint and muscle pain…”
These closures have had major impacts on women’s health. Queenslander Penny Conlan says that doing water aerobics several times a week is integral to her level of movement and keeping arthritis pain under control. “The closure meant I couldn’t get into the pool, I had more joint and muscle pain, and I was incredibly stiff,” she says.
Anita Hobson-Powell, CEO of Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA), says women often struggle to put their health first. The demands of their time during COVID-19 meant that it was difficult for them to fit movement into their daily lives.
“Regardless of her health and life stage, every woman can gain significant benefits from being active. My message to all Australian women is that in order to take care of others, you first have to take care of yourself. It is not selfish to prioritize your health and take the time to get the right advice when it comes to exercise.”
Ms Hobson-Powell says that while women with muscle or joint pain often avoid exercise for fear of exacerbating it, the truth is that appropriately prescribed exercise interventions can help manage and, in some cases, treat persistent joint and muscle pain. .
So now to look at their own needs
Janet Michelmore AO, executive director of Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, believes it’s important for women to acknowledge the challenges they’ve faced over the past two years and to give themselves permission to now consider their own needs.
We know that as women who are resilient and in the coming months, we will be slowly but surely working our way back to better health and fitness. Like all journeys, this journey will begin with a step.”
Janet Michelmore AO, CEO, Jane Hills Women’s Health
Jan Hills Women’s Health is a national non-profit organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of women throughout this country. This is the seventh annual health survey, and the first time it has been translated into Chinese (Simplified), Arabic and Vietnamese.