Study Finds Aussie Men Take Time From Female Partners For Exercise - Men's Health Magazine Australia

Study Finds Aussie Men Take Time From Female Partners For Exercise

Thanks to longer hours of paid work, men can afford more time away from the family to devote to their health, according to researchers.

We’ve long heard of gender disparities, namely by way of the gender pay gap and, in light of recent events coming out of the United States, politics whereby women can no longer access essential healthcare due to decisions made by men in power. But in another insight into the disparities that continue to pervade society, it turns out Aussie men are likely healthier than women, not a result of the latter’s choices when it comes to exercise and diet, but because men are afforded the time to devote to their health that women are not. 

According to research obtained by a study using data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey, it was found that Aussie men are more likely to take time from their female partners for exercise, something women are not afforded equally in return. This disparity in physical activity is best surmised by the discovery that “hour for hour, paid or unpaid, women’s physical activity is constrained by their time use in ways that men’s is not.”

Published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, the research draws on information from 7,000 households made up of heterosexual couples aged 25 to 64, where researchers then analysed the relationship between paid and family work time and physical activity. The study found women were less physically active than men, with 28.6 per cent of women reporting doing three moderate or intensive physical activities for at least 30 minutes a week, compared with 34 per cent of men. 

There was also a distinct correlation between women’s physical activity and work hours, where it was found that their physical activity dropped when paid or family work hours increased, or if the timing of their paid work was less flexible. Where women’s paid work time increased by 10 hours a week, physical activity decreased by six per cent to 22.6 per cent. 

As study co-author, Professor Lyndall Strazdins, of the Australian National University, explains: “We’re wanting women to work equally, but we’re not enabling them to do that, and they’re cutting back on their health.” 

In contrast, a 10-hour increase in men’s paid work was associated with just a two percent decrease in physical activity, to 32 per cent being physically active. Strazdins explains that longer work hours for men actually had “almost no effect on their time for being active and keeping themselves healthy.” Heterosexual men were likely to increase their physical activity when the working hours of their partners were more flexible, the research also found. 

While women reported longer family work hours and less control over their work time, men had more total paid and family work commitments a week. “For men, time spent on family work appears to be flexible and able to incorporate or accommodate physical activity: a protective factor that helps buffer men’s physical activity from long paid work hours,” the study suggests. “Although men generally spend longer hours on the job than women do…this ‘buys’ them less and different types of family work.”

“When men have a job, they reduce the time they spend at home on care. But when women have a job, they don’t. What that tells you is that men’s jobs actually buy them out of family work, and it shifts time on to women.”

Professor Lyndall Strazdins

“The solution has to start with us changing work to be gender fair, and that means allowing men to have more time for care, and women more time for work.”

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