Physical and sporting activity in women and men: increasing similarities, but also persisting differences

François Gleizes, division Conditions de vie des ménages, Émilie Pénicaud, division Études sociales, Insee

In 2015, 45% of women and 50% of men ages 16 and older reported having engaged in physical or sporting activity over the course of the previous twelve months. One-third of women and men engage in such activity regularly, at least once per week.

Between 2009 and 2015, the percentage of those taking part in sports increased from 40% to 45% in women; it remained stable in men. The gaps between women and men remained high, however, in the youngest segments of the population: 50% of women ages 16 to 24 engaged in at least one physical or sporting activity over the year, as compared to 63% of men in the same age category. Lack of time or low media exposure for women's sports are two possible reasons for young women’s lesser participation in physical or sporting activity. Gender stereotypes contribute to maintaining differences in the disciplines selected.

In 2010, walking was the physical or sporting activity most frequently chosen by women and men. Some disciplines furthermore continue to attract fewer women: women are largely in the minority when it comes to team and racket sports, whereas they are over-represented in dance and gymnastics.

The majority of both women and men engage in sports do so on weekends and by their own means. In both genders, recreation and staying fit were the main motivations for engaging in physical or sporting activity. Participating in sporting competitions is characteristic of young men, who more frequently than young women report that their aim is to push back their limits.

Insee Première N° 1675
No 1675
Paru le : 23/11/2017