Are you beach body ready? This was the question posed by health supplements firm Protein World in an ad campaign that ran earlier this year. In the UK, the ads appeared in London Underground stations and provoked a furious reaction from people angered that they promoted negative body issues.
The perception of beauty is channeled through many forms – literature, cinema, art, media, fashion, the internet – all of which hold considerable sway. I live in London and, every day, I see ‘aspirational’ bodies that I’ll probably never meet – and I’m not sure I want to. Whether it’s a billboard on the tube, a TV ad or the cover of a magazine, thanks to the media, we have become accustomed to extremely rigid and uniform targets for beauty – that are wholly unrealistic.
So why is exercise good for both physical and mental health?
It can lower the risk of:
- Breast cancer
- Coronary heart disease
- Hip fracture
And it can boost the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in memory, learning and emotions.
My view? Regardless of gender, people should be free to pursue the kind of body they want – whether it’s men wanting to be muscular or women wanting to lose weight, or the reverse. Whatever someone’s fitness goals are, they shouldn’t feel stigmatized.
It’s about working out for the right reasons – working out why you want to get fit, how it will help you, and putting plans in place to achieve it. I’ll probably never be beach body ready – but I know that my exercise regime helps me keep my mind and body on track.