NEWS The Art and Science of Fitness | Running for Empowerment

The Art and Science of Fitness | Running for Empowerment

Girls and women are at the heart of just, equitable and inclusive societies.

In this quest, when athlete Jens Jakob Andersen created the first map of global road-running participation rates, looking at more than 30 years of race results, he observed, “Women The countries with the highest proportion of participants were also those with most gender parity.” Iceland, the US and Canada had 55 percent more female participants than Switzerland, Japan and India, which had less than 20 percent.

Switzerland might seem like an odd country on this list, but you might be surprised that women didn’t get full voting rights in Appenzell, Switzerland’s last canton, until a 1990 ruling by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court . In India, on the other hand, women had full voting rights in the first elections since independence. Still, true equality is elusive in India. In our country there is a strong preference for sons regardless of class, caste, creed, region or religion. Girls are often seen as a burden and reminded of it over and over again.

That’s why the intersection of gender and health is critical. In traditional Indian families, the man is considered the head of the household, and as such, his needs often take precedence over those of other family members — especially the women in the family. So when they go for a run, they risk disrupting the peace at home, going to bed early, and changing everyone’s plans to accommodate them. However, due to women’s central role in the home and family, they have little time to exercise. They wear several hats in the family, requiring them to almost always adapt to the needs of others. However, they balance all of these roles and do a fantastic job at it, but don’t have the time to spend on physical fitness.

As toddlers, most girls were allowed to run around, but once they reached puberty, everyone around them repeatedly reminded them that they were not supposed to run around and play sports. They are often ashamed of the changes that have taken place in their bodies. Because of these social pressures, many girls start hiding their bodies and shrugging them off. It even stigmatizes being tall (because it “intimidates” boys), making them more listless.

As they grow up, they are reminded time and time again that they need to focus on schoolwork and chores, leaving them less and less time for themselves. Girls who are active are looked down upon and set a (bad) example for other girls. The norm for young boys—running around and being good at sports—is the exception for girls—who are forced out of the fields.

It’s often later in life — when social pressures start to wane — that many young girls discover the joys of movement, exercising, and running.

However, most young women who start running in their 20s and later lose track of the basic movements that come naturally to us.

Here are some key questions they face:

First, they are difficult to coordinate. While this is true for both males and females, it is more common in the latter because they spend too little time in sports that are easily accessible to boys.

Second, when they start walking or running, they have trouble breathing. If a girl develops a hunched posture during puberty (which is common), it limits the lungs from fully expanding. That’s why correcting posture is critical to their overall health.

Three, social struggle. This is something that is repeatedly reminded that strength training is not for them because they will build muscle and they will have an “unladylike” look. When they go to the gym, they almost always focus on cardio machines like treadmills, cross trainers, stationary bikes, and avoid lifting weights so they can maintain an “acceptable” body image and not lose weight Too “bulky”. People who force these views on women don’t realize that it’s muscles that move us, help us reach our threshold, and prevent injury. Then that ideal posture comes naturally.

That’s why there is an urgent need for all girls and women to start running, get fit, and regain the self-confidence that society has taken away from them. They need running and exercise to enhance their abilities, control themselves and protect themselves. After all, running isn’t just about the physical benefits of health and fitness. It’s about being emotionally and mentally strong.

Girls from poor families who are the first generation to attend school are even more disadvantaged. To address these issues, I am working with SwaTaleem, a non-profit organization dedicated to historically underrepresented rural girls attending Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBV, a central government-run medium boarding school) in Haryana Providing better life opportunities and helping young women reach their full potential. We will empower 4,500 girls in 31 schools across the state by getting them started running. This means we will be working with more than 40,000 beneficiaries as girls are the primary agents of family and social transformation.

So my message to all the women readers is to take charge of your life by running and exercising. While this is only one aspect of empowerment, it will contribute to your overall development, which in turn will naturally spill over to the rest of the family and society. As pillars of inclusive growth, women can lead the way.

Keep smiling.

Dr. Rajat Chauhan is the author of MoveMint Medicine: Your Journey to Peak Health and La Ultra: Run 5, 11 and 22K in 100 Days

He writes a weekly column exclusively for HT Premium readers detailing the science of movement and exercise.

Opinions expressed are personal

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