Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.
We all know what a fad diet is. It promises quick results for [insert health benefit of choice, usually weight loss], but it proves impractical for any human being to follow in the long-term. We try it, we crash and burn, we give up. That’s why you’ll never hear anyone say, “This cabbage soup diet is ace, innit?”
In recent years, experts have conducted more and more research studies to prove that fad diets don’t work. Many fitness professionals today look back in horror at their early years, when they were obsessed with the likes of Paleo or the Atkins diet.
What we don’t hear about as often is a less obvious craze, which affects our lives just as much. I call this phenomenon “fad fitness”.
What’s fad fitness?
Here is what I think is the most accurate definition of “fad fitness”, courtesy of Brosciencey McBroscienceface: “No pain, no gain.” Sounds familiar? If you’re a woman, you may have heard of the old saying: “Beauty is pain.” Different words to express the same concept.
Fad fitness is the idea that longer, harder and, let’s face it, more dreadful workouts will make us look good naked. The ultimate goal of this type of fitness is the forever sought-after “beach body”.
What’s the problem with it?
Much like a fad diet, fad fitness doesn’t work. Again, we try it, we crash and burn, we give up. There is, however, a crucial difference. No matter how many times we crash and burn, we are quick to jump on the next fad diet train, thinking this will be the one fad diet to end all fad diets. It’s a gruelling roundabout.
On the other hand, fad fitness is a one-way street with a bifurcation at the end that looks like this:
Either way, it often takes us a lot longer to get back into working out than into dieting. However, while in many cases dieting is arguably unnecessary, a plethora of researchers have found that working out decreases mortality rates, lowers the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and osteoporosis, and improves mental health, among other benefits.
For these reasons, fad fitness is potentially more dangerous than fad diets because it discourages us from pursuing long-term health.
What is real fitness?
Unless you’re studying to become a personal trainer, chances are you’ve never come across this definition by the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “Physical fitness. The ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and respond to emergencies.”
The British Department of Health also provides national guidelines to maintain general health. They recommend a minimum of five 30-minute walks a week or three 25-minute more vigorous sessions, plus two strength training workouts. Some studies have also demonstrated that working out less frequently can still provide some health benefits. On the other hand, overtraining – that is, training above and beyond your ability to recover – causes your progress to stop and even decline.
If fad fitness is all you’ve ever known, the prospect of trying something different can be daunting. The CDC definition of fitness can look like a mouthful of vague terms. Fortunately, unlike fad fitness, real fitness doesn’t have to be difficult to implement and stick to.
Here are three key principles to keep in mind:
Real fitness is about longevity, health, and happiness. As a welcome side-effect, you also get to look good naked. So what are you waiting for?
In Future Episodes:
Thank you for reading. Stay tuned for the next article: my personal experience with a cut! I’ll tell you all about the reasons that inspired my decision (gender-related, but also not), the research informing the process, my nutrition and exercise regimen, what worked and what didn’t, my results, and how it changed my body image as a trans guy. See you next time!
Do you exercise? What workout programme do you follow at the moment? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
This article was also published on The Galleon News.
A personal trainer who likes superheroes, bread, lifting weights, and studying “fitness stuff”.
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