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Victoria Pendleton backs Hovis fitness campaign - but is it sexist?

Video shows women how to incorporate exercise into household cleaning regime

Victoria Pendleton, who is going for gold at the Olympics in London this August, is once again the face of a New Year campaign by Hovis to encourage people to get fit and healthy in the year ahead. But is it one that could unwittingly lead the Olympic champion, herself an outspoken critic of sexism in sport, into the minefield that of gender politics surrounding the issue of housework... and specifically, who does it?

In the wake of securing that gold medal at Beijing, Pendleton accused the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and world cycling’s governing body, the UCI, of sexism due to the female track cyclists having fewer events at Beijing than their male counterparts.

That gender imbalance has now been remedied – there will be five events for both men and women at the Olympic Park’s Velodrome this summer, and as well as seeking to retain her individual sprint title, Pendleton is also targeting the team sprint and the keirin.

But at a time when female road cyclists are calling for fairer treatment, the latest campaign by the Premier Foods-owned brand, while a good example of pre-Olympic ambush marketing, risks reinforcing gender stereotypes.

In a video accompanying the launch of a Hovis Facebook app aimed at helping people achieve their fitness goals, the 31-year-old says: “The secret to a healthy lifestyle is not crash diets or marathons from scratch, it’s about setting your own realistic, achievable targets that fit around your lifestyle.”

She goes on to do show women how to achieve that – with stretching exercises while doing the vacuuming, using jars in the kitchen as weights, or getting a good workout while mopping the floor.

Now, market research consistently proves that women are much more likely than men to undertake household chores in the first place, and also to spend more time on them.

Factor in childcare responsibilities among those with children and perhaps the demands of a job too, and it can be difficult to find time to exercise.

Incorporating a fitness regime into aspects of your daily routine can be one way of overcoming those time pressures.

We can’t be alone in thinking, however, that Hovis could have perhaps found a better way of getting that message across.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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