“Lets get physical” Olivia Newton John lyrically waxed sometime in the early eighties, a time when I was more interested in the glorious noises bottoms could make than their shape or size.
A bottom that can ring out loud and amusing tunes is highly valued by small children regardless of its perceived level of attractiveness.
So it is with disappointment I report that when Livvy sang ‘Let me hear your body talk’ she wasn’t requesting a derierre fueled gas release (although the song is far better when perceived this way) but rather she wanted to see you sweat.
The song was released in the days when video had just started killing the radio star, and Olivia and her production team took full advantage.
Extras in the music video were clad in skin tight lycra and covered head to toe in exercise induced sweat.
This, ladies and gentleman, was an early advertisement for the benefits of ‘working out’.
Work out. Get hot. Look hot.
The video went a step further and showed images of ‘unattractive’ people TRANSFORMING into ‘attractive’ people through exercise.
As innocent as it may seem, this song played a part in setting a precedent for the modus operandi of ‘Exercise’ promotion.
Our industry, has been (seemingly) irreversibly railroaded by appearance and there is space for little else.
Six packs, thigh gaps, rock hard pecs, wheels of steel, booty shelves.
Strong is the new thin. She’s too strong. She’s too thin.
He’s too fat.
He skipped leg day. (Never skip leg day or you may have your image shared across the Internet for everybody to laugh at you. Some people are nice like that.)
Exercise has become a method to change the way your body LOOKS rather than transform the way your body WORKS.
“Why is this a bad thing?“ I hear a cacophony of muscled hunks holler between swigs of protein shake.
1. It alienates at least 80% of people by making them feel they do not belong to the world of exercise.
2. It makes people feel exercise “isn’t worth it” if the scales don’t move/people don’t notice/dress size doesn’t change for a couple of weeks. So they give up.
3. When people reach their ‘Aesthetic target’ they withdraw from exercise as they no longer have anything to aspire towards.
4. You have to look a certain way. One way. The way advertisers suggest you should look. If you don’t look that way then you’re not doing it right. This is bulls**t. Dangerous bulls**t that alienates and blocks regular exercise.
Yes, friends. This singular relationship between exercise and appearance is rather damaging indeed.
Alas. make no mistake about it, the aesthetic benefits of exercise are positively gargantuan.
If you want to look YOUR personal best (and there is nothing wrong with this whatsoever) the ONLY way you’re going to get there is through exercise. That much is true.
Exercise burns fat and builds muscle. It improves skin quality, skin tone and posture. All of these things will make you look healthy and healthy looks good.
Yet, these benefits should be a byproduct of regular exercise, rather than the driving force behind why you do it.
You see, regular exercise acts as a baseline behavior to support people through every other behavior in life. Regular heart raising activity and movement is a baseline behavior that improves lives.
Overselling the aesthetic benefits of exercise is to sell its true benefits woefully short.
For starters exercise…
* Builds confidence
* Improves our immunity
* Improves our endocrine function
* Is proven to help reduce anxiety
* Is proven to help reduce depression (in many studies, the long term benefits are better than those offered by medications)
* Builds self esteem
* Reduces the chances of osteoarthritis, many cancers, diabetes, heart disease, strokes and pretty much every chronic degenerative condition
* Improves sleep
* Improves performance and efficiency at work
* Makes you more likely to make good food choices….
I could go on all day, but you probably get the general idea.
We NEED more people to exercise not just for THEM, but for US as a society.
The alienation of so many people through over promotion of aesthetics is, therefore, a very bad thing.
We take a strong stand at Body Project.
1. We never make people feel they should look a certain way.
2. We never post pictures up of ourselves in revealing clothing. (Believe me, its REALLY hard not to post the holiday pictures of me (Daniel) feeling great in my incy, wincy, teeny weeny, yellow polka dot bikini but a stand IS a stand.)
We have one aim and one aim only.
To help people exercise regularly, for LIFE. If we can help somebody do that, everything will fall into place.
Remember, exercise is about how YOU feel about yourself and living YOUR best life NOT what somebody else looks like in a bikini or with their shirt off.
Thanks, Daniel for this and all of your well written, thought provoking blogs. So grateful I found Body Project. You and Alex make exercise fun! I did the You Tube videos for a few months before joining, which was a great decision. I’m beginning week 4 of Trainee, today. Wow, what a difference in my life since beginning…I feel so much healthier and I’m happier. Again, thank you!!!