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New ASICS Study Validates Positive Connection Between Exercise and Women’s Mental Health


This International Women’s Day, ASICS unveils the results of the largest study ever conducted on the gender exercise gap, reaffirming the positive correlation between women’s exercise levels and their mental health, with women 52% happier, 50% more energised, 48% more confident, 67% less stressed and 80% less frustrated when regularly exercising[i].

Yet, the independent research, conducted on over 25,000 people and led by renowned academics Dr Dee Dlugonski and Professor Brendon Stubbs, alarmingly found that over half of women globally are dropping out or stopping exercise completely, which is negatively impacting their state of mind.

In response, ASICS is recognising and amplifying the positive impact of individuals and grassroots organisations who are breaking barriers for women in sport, to support, empower and inspire more women to move.

Worryingly, the global study revealed that over half of women are unhappy with their exercise levels.

All women are experiencing barriers to exercise throughout their lifetime, from time pressures (74%) and low self-confidence (35%) to intimidating environments (44%) or not feeling sporty enough (42%).

What’s more, almost two-thirds (61%) of mothers cited motherhood as the primary reason they dropped out of doing regular exercise or sport altogether, showing the impact that caregiving responsibilities and societal expectations about gender roles are having on women’s activity levels.

Interestingly, men’s perceptions of the challenges women face were different to the reality. 

Only 34% of men recognised lack of time as a barrier to exercise for women, despite three-quarters (74%) of women citing the issue. Instead, men thought body insecurities were the leading problem, with 58% of men reporting this as the main barrier, compared to 36% of women.

In fact, of the top five barriers to exercise perceived by men, only one (costs) actually featured in the list of most common obstacles reported by women, highlighting a disparity between men’s perceptions and the daily reality felt by women around the world.

Despite this, the research found that over a third of women say their friends are their most important exercise influencers, noting that they’re more motivated to exercise by women like themselves, than celebrities.

When asked why they would exercise, encouragingly women universally said for their mental (92%) and physical (96%) health rather than aesthetics.

The study lead, Dr Dee Dlugonski, Assistant Professor at Sports Medicine Research Institute, University of Kentucky said: “Our study showed that the gender exercise gap is a complex challenge which did not develop overnight.

Given it has no sole cause, it will not be solved with one single solution, but when asked what could help, women noted that making movement more accessible, inclusive and recognised in all forms, while challenging society’s gendered expectations, would support them in moving more.

“This includes making exercise centred around women and their needs. From providing childcare and catering for all activity levels to fitting around work, being fun, affordable, safe, welcoming and judgement-free.

All these solutions, while small, can have a significant impact and our study uncovered thousands of individuals and organisations around the world who are already driving change.”

This includes people like Karen Guttridge, who as an older woman felt like there were no exercise opportunities locally, so she decided to set up her own running group for women over fifty.

Expecting five ladies to join the first session, Karen was overwhelmed when over seventy like-minded women turned up.

Offering running programmes for all exercise levels and an inviting, safe and judgement-free space for the women to connect, the group has been an overwhelming success and supported many women to move and feel confident in doing so.

ASICS wants to recognise and celebrate the incredible impact of people like Karen across communities around the world.

Today, ASICS is spotlighting the remarkable individuals and organisations, who are actively dismantling barriers for women in exercise and sport.

As well as the stories of those who are making a difference, the ASICS Move Her Mind platform contains resources, activities and tips to support more women to move more often.

ASICS knows there are many, many more people and organisations making a difference around the world.

This International Women’s Day, ASICS is inviting people to submit their stories and experiences, so more women can be connected, supported and inspired.

Tomoko Koda, Managing Executive Officer for ASICS comments: “ASICS was founded on the belief that sport and exercise benefit the body and the mind.

It’s why we’re called ASICS: ‘Anima Sana in Corpore Sano’ or ‘Sound Mind in a Sound Body’.

While our study found that many women are not happy with their exercise levels, it also uncovered the tremendous impact that individuals and grassroots organisations are having in helping women to move.

“By launching Move Her Mind, we hope to give these remarkable people a platform, to connect and inspire others, so everyone can achieve a sound mind in a sound body.

It’s time more women and girls experience the positive physical and mental benefits of exercise. It’s time for change. It’s time to Move Her Mind.”

Visit the Move Her Mind platform and get involved, at

[i] Unless otherwise stated, all statistics referenced are from the 2023 ASICS Move Every Mind study. 

This was the largest global study exploring the barriers, facilitators and motivators to exercise for women using qualitative and quantitative methods.