According to a study of 168 countries and nearly 2 million people, the UK is among the least active countries in the world. About 80% of people in the UK are not getting the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity a week.
There are many factors in our modern world that make us less active. Our desk jobs, long working hours and too much screen time.
Oh and the good old British weather 🙂
However, whilst the reasons above are valid, another big factor is the toxic and superficial gym culture.
The toxic fitness industry
For the majority of people, movement and exercise is a chore. It’s on the new year’s resolution list, a form of punishment for over indulging on the mince pies.
And the fitness industry doesn’t encourage us to enjoy moving our bodies.
It exists to make money, not to make you healthy.
It exists to promote ‘body transformations’ and aesthetic appearances, not promote true health and fitness.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to look better. We all want to look better, but it is not health and fitness.
True health and fitness is moving your body how you want without it being a hindrance. It’s about being free of pain and reducing the chances of sickness. It’s about accepting yourself and finding balance. Can you get up from the floor easily without using your hands? Can you hold a deep squat? Can you move your joints through a full range of motion? Can you move both slowly and quickly but with control? How about walking and running up a hill without getting out of breathe?
These are some markers of true fitness.
But the fitness industry goes to extremes and is increasingly designed to make us feel shame and guilt for not looking like a supermodel and having bulging muscles.
How do you sell gym memberships and fitness classes? You make people worry about their physical flaws.
Pick up one of the latest fitness magazines and it will tell you which supplements you must take to melt away your belly fat whilst simultaneously crafting rock-hard abs.
Social media is full of superficially edited photos of someone with rock hard abs.
It gives a false expectation of what can be achieved and will likely lead to feelings of inferiority unless we achieve that result.
Also, the fitness industry glorifies a no pain, no gain approach. All the boot camps and army inspired workouts are all part of the general glorification of pain.
And that’s the problem.
The unrealistic standards and no pain, no gain approach is alienating for most people. And who can blame them! The choice we are given is one extreme of sitting on the couch to the other extreme of training to be in the SAS!
Reclaim the joy of movement
There is nothing wrong with moving to help lose weight or improve the aesthetic look of our body. But movement and exercise have far more benefits then this.
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.Wayne Dyer
Therefore, I believe we should evolve our thinking around exercise.
What if the main purpose of exercise was to have fun? What if it was to be part of a social community? What if it was part of doing something together as a family? What if it was a gift to your body?
I believe this would make it more relatable and intrinsic for many of us (and therefore able to be sustained) and increase participation.
Far too many people sit on the sidelines because they think they have to do the traditional exercise routine – lift weights, run round the park etc. And anything else doesn’t count.
Some options for you to consider are;
- Play Rabble games from dogeball to gladiators
- Rediscover childlike natural movement
- Choose an activity you enjoy: dance, martial arts, yoga, gardening, walking, swimming, football, tennis.. the list is endless
- Think of all the way to combine movement with everyday chores: stand on one leg whilst cleaning teeth, squat whilst taking a shower, do your stretching and flexibility activities while you watch TV etc
- Find a buddy/friend to exercise with or go for a walk when catching up with friends/family
Just do something
Remember, most of the fitness industry’s goal is to make money, not to make you fit and healthy.
If you are not sure what to do, just do something. What’s the worst that could happen?