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Vanity taking its toll on women’s long-term health

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by Cancer Research UK | News

18 April 2012

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Fashion trends and concerns about appearance could be having a detrimental effect on the health and fitness of our nation’s women according to a new survey commissioned by Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco*.

More than two thirds of women (70 per cent) surveyed admitted that they don’t even do the ‘minimum’ daily recommended amount of exercise every week** which is essential for maintaining long-term good health. Worryingly, of the reasons given for not always doing the recommended exercise, a third (33 per cent) were related to vanity and fashion trends.***

Young women are the worst culprits, with around three fifths (59 per cent) of the reasons given for not always doing the recommended amount of exercise being vanity related.

These included:  current fashion trends (14 per cent) and not wanting to ruin their hair (8 per cent) or makeup (8 per cent).  Around two fifths (41 per cent) of 18-24 year old women said that they care more about the way they look on the outside over taking care of their overall health and fitness levels.

Celebrity psychologist Jo Hemmings said: ‘These statistics show that there is a disturbing trend for young women to place a higher value on their physical appearance rather than on their long term health, yet these days there is no need to have to sacrifice the way you look in order to maintain your fitness! It’s all a question of balance and understanding that you can look good whilst still managing to fit a simple, regular and effective exercise routine into your busy life.

‘Making simple daily lifestyle changes such as swapping your high heels on the way to work for a pair of stylish but comfortable ballet flats can make day to day activity much more achievable and help ease you into a more active lifestyle.

‘And taking part in an event such as Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life is the perfect way to support a good cause, enjoy some gentle, non-competitive exercise with like-minded friends and get a real sense of achievement at the same time.’

The survey, conducted by YouGov, also shows that towering high heels, worn by those in TV shows like TOWIE, could prevent half (51 per cent) of all women from being more active. And over two fifths (43 per cent) of women admit that they are more likely to take the stairs if they are wearing flat shoes rather than heels.

TOWIE’s Sam Faiers who is supporting Race for Life said: ‘Looking groomed is really important to me but I want to stress to all the ladies out there that it is still possible to do that all-important exercise and look great at the same time!

‘Events such as Race for Life are fantastic as you can do an hour’s activity with all of your friends to raise money for a great cause and still look glamorous whilst doing it.’

Emma Hyatt of Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life said: ‘It is worrying to hear that so many women don’t manage to do exercise every week as around 3,000 cancers every year are linked to people being inactive **** and many scientific studies have shown that people who are active are less likely than inactive people to develop breast, bowel and womb cancer.

‘Training for Race for Life is a really easy way to incorporate gentle exercise into your daily life.  We have hundreds of events taking place across the UK this summer so we’d encourage all women to sign up now to walk, jog or run 5k to help beat cancer.  We can’t do it without you!’

Since it began in 1994, an incredible six million participants have taken part in Race for Life raising a massive £457 million to fund Cancer Research UK’s vital work. In 2012, Cancer Research UK hopes to raise £55 million and is urging more women to sign up now to an event this summer.

Cancer survival rates in the UK have doubled in the past 40 years and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of this progress. But there’s still much to be done and the money raised through Race for Life, will help save even more lives.

Sign up for Race for Life 2012 now at or call the hotline on 0871 641 1111. You can also follow Race for Life on twitter or join the Race for Life Facebook community.

Jo Hemming’s tips for five ways to keep fit and look good:

  1. With its transition from gym to street wear, exercise clothing has never been more fashionable or diverse. There is something out there to suit everyone – of all ages and all sizes.
  2. Think of exercise as a means to an end, both in health and appearance terms. For example, regular walking – whether on the street or on a treadmill– will give you firm and toned calves – perfect for wearing those high heels!
  3. Taking part in an event such as Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life is the perfect way to support a good cause, enjoy some gentle, non-competitive exercise with like-minded friends and get a real sense of achievement.
  4. Exercise releases endorphins; the body’s natural mood enhancer and knowing that you feel good can really lift both your inner self-esteem and your outer self-confidence boosting the way that you look to others too.
  5. Wherever you’re exercising, simply wearing your hair clipped into an ‘up-do’, a tinted moisturizer, lip gloss and a slick of waterproof mascara means you can still get fit without compromising on the way that you look!


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