Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sport and obesity in women

Derval O Rourke, Irish hurdler
So it seems we have a few new readers - thanks to a radio slot I did with Newstalk's Global Village programme on Saturday night chatting about women in sport. Welcome :)

It was as they say 'a wide-ranging discussion' taking in everything from transport to obesity. That last one was the piece I ended up most exercised - excuse the dreadful pun - about. 

Did you know that in Ireland the group with the highest levels of obesity are women over 50? A very worrying piece of research

This clearly links into the gender-divisions around sport. Women who don't do sport will get away with it for a certain number of years but after 50 clearly it all catches up with you. And we're not talking here about getting out and joining an elite level boxing club or something, just simply taking a walk or going for a swim.

I would also point this back at the funding bodies - a report found over half of all funding to sports goes to three sports - GAA, rugby and soccer - that women just don't like playing in the same numbers as men. 

There is a lot of work being done to change this, but is it enough?


Emmet Ryan said...

I'm genuinely surprised as I thought men in their 40s would be the biggest sector due to their being active in sport. One of the toughest adjustments when you stop playing at your peak (irrespective of how high/low that peak is) is getting used to burning less energy.

As active sports people burn a truckload of calories they tend to naturally consume a lot of them too. Adjusting to reducing that intake when you stop burning them like a mad yoke is another matter entirely.

That makes this finding genuinely surprising to me. The rapid rise of sports like distance running and triathlons at a social level however offer a lot of cause for hope.

With lifestyles radically different to what they were 20 years ago, the time commitment (or rather the specific time commitment) to team sports can be a massive strain. Training for 10ks, marathons, and triathlons can be far more individually tailored while still possessing a social aspect.

I'd disagree with you on soccer not being an important area for sports council funding regarding women. It is and will for the foreseeable future be the king of team sports globally for bother genders as it is by far the easiest to get involved in (in terms of costs, access etc).

Women's soccer is probably the most important team sport for Ireland going forward in terms of getting women active in sport, even more so than gaelic games and hockey.

And in a shock to no-one I have once again been a tad verbose in a comment.

Snowcatcher said...

I agree with Emmet's comment (and didn't find it too long at all!) that the biggest problem is modifying food intake when becoming less active. How many athletes have trouble in winter maintaining their weight because they can't get out to work out and burn tons of calories but keep eating the way they did while they were super active? I'm victim of that, and I know better!

I do agree, though, that more funding goes toward men's sports, not only in administration and management, but at the spectator level as well.

niamh said...

@Emmet - It's not that surprising though when you look at how little sport women do as a general rule, it pains me to admit it but it seems in Ireland we do less. (thinking now of Pembroke survey in Jan, did you see that http://niamhgriffin.blogspot.com/2011/12/irish-people-loving-their-sport.html)
But would disagree re the soccer - when you look at the figures in the ESRI report it is noticeable that women do not take part in team sports - as a rule swimming and walking are the activities they do in significant numbers. So if the bulk of the funding is going into sports women don't do then ... It might seem important in theory but the numbers that I've seen just don't add up. That's why the Women in Sport programme from the ISC is so important as it looks at a much wider range of sport than they had traditionally done

@Snowcatcher - Yes, that happens to all of us :( I always get a shock when I try to do something I could do a few years back and fail! Time for some reality but there's enough of that in the world so maybe not ...