Women are less active than men, and it's putting their health at risk, say researchers at Oregon State University in the US.
A new study analysing the fitness regimes of a wide-ranging sample of people found that men exercised for 30 minutes a day on average, while women only took 18 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day.
The research team said that the results of the study were worrying for women, as it put them at a much higher risk of developing physical and psychological ailments.
"Those who get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day are less likely to be depressed, less likely to have high cholesterol and less likely to have metabolic syndrome," said the study's co-author Paul Loprinzi.
Metabolic syndrome is an umbrella term for a range of factors that together increase the risk of conditions such as coronary disease, Type 2 diabetes and stroke. Some of these risk factors include high cholesterol, high blood-pressure, an increase in abdominal fat and insulin resistance.
The researchers measured the daily physical activity of 1,000 participants by fitting them with an accelerometer (a device fitted around the waist that keeps track of a person's movement), and then looked at the correlations between activity, depression and metabolic syndrome.
They found that a little more than a third of the women had metabolic syndrome, while one fifth were also exhibiting symptoms of depression.
"It's pretty striking what happens to you if you don't meet that 30 minutes a day of activity," said the study's other co-author, Bradley Cardinal.
"Women in our sample had better health behavior – they were much less likely to smoke for instance – but the lack of activity still puts them at risk," he said.
"The key message here is to get that 30 minutes of exercise every day because it reduces a great deal of risk factors."
The study did not go into the reasons why women exercise less, but the authors did suggest one controversial theory relating to the establishment of exercise patterns during childhood.
"Research has shown that around ages 5 or 6 these patterns begin," said Cardinal. "Parents tend to be more concerned with the safety of girls, and have more restrictive practices around outdoor time and playtime than with boys."
Mr Loprinzi added that these patterns of physical activity (or lack thereof) often carry on into adulthood, and that a lack of confidence may also be a factor holding women back from exercising more.
"Some evidence indicates that women, compared to men, have less confidence in their ability to overcome their exercise-related barriers," he said.
Female participants in the study also cited a lack of time due to child-rearing responsibilities as another reason for not exercising.
Natalie Carter, Sydney-based personal trainer and owner of New Outlook Fitness, said the results of the study are not surprising.
"Women struggle on a daily basis to get enough exercise and also the right type of exercise," she said. "But with the busy lives that women lead, it's important to remember that every bit counts. Ten minute bursts of exercise three times a day is better than nothing at all."
"The key is consistency. Don't give up one week in your new exercise regime and don't be afraid to ask for help. Get hubby to mind the kids for 30 minutes or rope a friend in to help keep you motivated."