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GPs offer boxing classes to help women beat depression

GPs offer boxing classes to help women beat depression as part of fitness drive to improve patients’ mental and physical health

  • Women say they have less time than men to be physically active, research finds 
  • More than 40 per cent of women surveyed said they felt too tired to work out
  • Doctors will be urged to enrol patients in classes as a form of ‘social prescribing’ 


Family doctors are set to prescribe fitness classes, including dance, boxing and yoga, for depressed and diabetic women.

The sessions, designed by Sport England, will be piloted nationwide early next year.

It comes as research by the public body found that women say they have less time than men to be physically active, with more than 40 per cent saying they felt too tired to work out.

A quarter of female participants also listed work commitments and not feeling fit enough as other reasons for being less active.

Family doctors are set to prescribe fitness classes, including dance, boxing and yoga, for depressed and diabetic women. The sessions, designed by Sport England, will be piloted nationwide early next year

The new fitness classes – called ‘This Girl Can’ – encourage participants to engage in a non-judgmental environment where they are encouraged to ‘do your worst’.

Doctors will be urged to enrol patients as a form of ‘social prescribing’ to meet non-medical needs that may be linked to conditions such as diabetes, depression or obesity.

Tim Hollingsworth, head of Sport England, told The Times: ‘Despite the enormous progress we have made with supporting more women to get active in recent years, the gender gap for activity stubbornly persists.

‘It’s never been more important. Getting active boosts mental and physical health, helps manage anxiety and stress, and creates social ties but millions of women are missing out on these benefits.’ Gina Johnson, 46, who attended a This Girl Can session in Beckenham, south London, said it was ‘different from any class I’ve done before’.

She said: ‘It feels like a modern version of an old-school aerobics class. It’s well thought out and there’s a real feel-good factor.’

Doctors will be urged to enrol patients as a form of ¿social prescribing¿ to meet non-medical needs that may be linked to conditions such as diabetes, depression or obesity

Doctors will be urged to enrol patients as a form of ‘social prescribing’ to meet non-medical needs that may be linked to conditions such as diabetes, depression or obesity

Frances Drury, of Sport England, said female-only classes were important given how many women experienced sexual harassment in gyms or while exercising outdoors.

She said: ‘What we want to convey is the joy of exercising in itself and then trying to tackle the fear and judgment barrier that we know women are more likely to experience when it comes to physical activity.’ Meanwhile, research has shown that walking 10,000 steps a day cuts the risk of heart disease.

Volunteers notching up 8,500 to 10,000 every day were 35 per cent less likely to develop life-threatening heart disease than those managing only 4,000 steps. They were also 40 per cent less likely to die prematurely.

The findings, from Southeast University in Nanjing, China, showed an increase of just 500 steps a day cut the risk of heart disease by 6 per cent. 

A boom in sales of fitness trackers and smart phones that monitor movement has meant millions now scrutinise their daily activity levels in a bid to hit the 10,000 target, or roughly five miles.

The goal itself is not rooted in hard science but was dreamt up by marketing executives in Japan in the 1960s when they chose the name ‘Manpo-kei’ – 10,000 steps in Japanese – for a pedometer that was going on sale.

The latest study pooled data from more than a dozen different studies around the world.

The results, in the Journal of Sport and Health, found the benefits accrue the more steps someone takes.

A report on the findings said: ‘A goal of 10,000 a day is widely advocated but with little evidence so far to support it. But our study shows it is becoming more and more important to public health.’

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