Men call it sport; women grit their teeth and call it exercise. According to Mintel's research, women are far more likely than men to endure physical activity for the sake of their health than are men, with one in three women taking part for health reasons compared to only one in four men.

Women's dedication is reflected in their choice of sports. They are most likely to be found swimming, or attending keep-fit classes, both of which are solitary pastimes. By comparison, men choose team sports - football, rugby and cricket spring to mind - and relegate health and fitness considerations to third place; behind the social aspects and competitive element of their pastime.

Men may be less earnest than women in their motivation, but their ability to enjoy their sport makes them better than women at participating regularly. At all ages, bar the 55-60 age group, men are more likely than women to play sport as a matter of course, and this is especially true during middle age when a big decline in female sport and exercise participation occurs as women become mothers.

There is an irony in the way sport is marketed to women, with the focus on fitness rather than enjoyment. According to Mintel, exercise offers women an effective route for tackling obesity. While regular exercisers and those who take little or no exercise admit to similar diets, the two groups demonstrate a clear link between exercise and weight: 64 per cent of non-exercisers, compared with 43 per cent of those who exercise regularly, say they are overweight to some degree; and 37 per cent of those avoiding exercise are "quite a bit overweight", compared to less than one in 10 regular exercisers. Perhaps women need to become less sporty about sport.