We Need to Talk about Fitness

The hot, new workout that can burn up to 1000 calories’.

‘Best exercises for abs: 24 killer moves’.

‘Get her curves with the ultimate full-body blast’.

We see headlines like these daily on social media, blogs, and fitness magazines. They all promise different things, but it generally boils down to this – do this workout to get this body.

Exercise has become completely about appearance. Every step, rep, and run is for the intention of burning calories, losing weight, or getting ‘toned’. If you’re not exercising optimally in the pursuit of your goal physique, why even bother? If science says strength training is the best for changing body composition, Β why would you consider anything else?

The recent health and fitness craze seems to have blurred the lines between fitness and aesthetics. They are not the same.

Fitness should be a constant part of your life, regardless of what fad diet you’re following this month. Tying exercise to dieting often means that once the diet fails, the new exercise regime stops too. Sure, training twice a day might get you a great #transformationtuesday pic for Instagram, but are you really going to keep that up indefinitely? Often people forget that you can’t just do a crazy amount of exercise to get in shape, and then expect to stay that way when you ditch the extreme fitness regime. To maintain your ‘after’ physique, you need to keep doing the workouts that got you there long term. Suffering through workouts just to lose weight isn’t going to end well.

Being ‘fit’ has become solely about appearance. By definition, fit means ‘In good health, especially because of regular physical exercise.’ The ‘health’ part seems to have been completely forgotten by the fitness industry. All that matters is that you look lean – who cares if that’s because of regular exercise, genetics, or starving yourself? If you’re naturally slim, why even bother exercising at all? It saddens me that this generation doesn’t seem to appreciate the health benefits of exercise. It has huge benefits for health, independent of the changes it can make to your appearance. Exercise is medicine, but people treat it like it’s good for nothing but changing body composition.

This new era of aesthetics-orientated fitness forgets something else too – enjoyment. What happened to enjoying exercise? A workout that burns 1000kcal an hour might be great for creating a calorie deficit, but if you don’t like it, are you really going to keep going it up? Exercise should, first and foremost, be enjoyable. Sure there’ll be days when you don’t really feel it, or have a rubbish session, but for the most part, it should be fun. I love lifting weights – it’s often the best part of my day. Years ago, I would have laughed at the prospect of loving fitness – now it’s a non-negotiable part of my life. The key change was finding exercise I loved.

I’m going to say something pretty crazy now – it doesn’t matter what form of exercise you do, as long as you enjoy doing it regularly. All exercise has benefits. Cardiovascular exercise like running and cycling is great for heart health. Swimming is low impact, and therefore great for those with joint injuries. Yoga improves posture and flexibility. Strength training improves insulin sensitivity, increases bone mineral density, and reduced risk of sarcopenia in the elderly. There’s benefits to all forms of exercise! Just find the one you like.

Exercise is for life, not just for a 12 week transformation pic.

 

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