IRISH women are less physically active than their male counterparts due to lack of education and encouragement as children, a new survey claims.
Figures published in medical journal The Lancet show that 58.5pc of women here are inactive compared to 47.8pc of men. "From a very young age, girls are less active than boys. There is gender inequality in the provision of physical education in Irish schools," says Health and Human Performance expert Dr Catherine Woods. Girls do less exercise than boys at school age and their level of physical activity declines more as they get older, according to the Children's Sport Participation and Physical Activity Study.
"Girls are more likely to have only a single PE class rather than a double and are more likely to have no PE at all in exam years," Dr Woods said.
Later in life, women who balance work and family life feel they don't have time for sport. But even if they do not take part as much as men, they should not be inactive.
"Women can make up the minutes through walking, or intense housework, although these are not leisure activities," Dr Woods explained.
Irish women need to change the way they think when it comes to defining what physical activity is, she said.
"Many women say the key barrier to physical activity is time, due to childcare. But they can walk instead of driving to collect the kids. If it's a good day leave the car at home and bring the buggy. This incidental activity is extremely important."
Dr Woods, who is Head of the School of Health & Human Performance at DCU, explains the difference even a small amount of activity can make to someone who normally does nothing.
"Take the individual who is inactive, if we can get them to do even 30 minutes of moderate activity per day, the benefit they get is enormous. If you take someone who is moderately active and move them to high level activity they will be fitter, but the relative benefit is not as large. Our aim should be to get them up and moving first, and eventually they can become fit."
Dr Woods was one of four key contributors on the National Physical Activity Action plan which was submitted to politicians before the last election.
"At the moment Ireland has no national activity plan. This means there is lots going on around the country but it's not co-ordinated."
"If there's a goal of 1pc per annum (increase in activity) every club, service teacher or coach could feed into that goal and the progress could be monitored."