Why does the fitness industry hate women?

I don’t usually like to cast stones at others who are working to improve the health and fitness of our fat, sick and out of shape nation. For the most part even the crass commercial side of the fitness industry still does some good, and any effort taken by an individual to be fitter and healthier is better than no effort at all. But there really does seem to be a special level of vileness embedded in fitness products that are created for and marketed to women.

Women's Health Ad

I don’t hate Women’s Health. A lot of the content in the magazine is actually pretty good. The sad bit though is that if you take this month’s issue of Women’s Health and Men’s Health and page through them together it becomes rapidly apparent that the good content in the Women’s magazine is mostly stuff adapted and slightly rewritten from the Men’s. Now one way of seeing this is to say that they understand that there really doesn’t need to be sex-specific fitness advice, but a rather more cynical (and probably accurate view) is that if they really did embrace this philosophy they’d do away with the separate magazines and just put one out called Health. Of course then they’d have to embrace the notion that Yoga and Pilates are equally valuable fitness pursuits for men.

While I have no problem with people adding a little bit of Yoga to their programs (and actually believe some kind of work on flexibility, balance and mobility is crucial, especially as we get older), the ad above ticked me off because it is, once again, promoting lots of bad ideas that are targeted at women. The worst of all is the notion that you can get as fit as the models in the ad by just doing 15 minutes of yoga every day. No need to do any of that ugly, manly sweating stuff. No need to actually build strength and endurance, and worst of all, that the reason you’re not “slim and sexy” is because you aren’t doing Yoga, not because you’re eating crap and too much of it.

Then there’s all the stuff that’s precisely designed to elicit a shame response in the women targeted by the ad. “Banish Bra Fat” and “Banish Belly Fat” are not often seen in ads for fitness products targeted at men. What kind of reaction do you think your average dude would have to an ad that offered to rid him of his moobs? I’m pretty sure most of my male friends would be horrified by any fitness program that emphasized “partner poses.” Why is it ok to suggest that this ad suggests not only that women have no time in their busy lives for fitness, but should also use the tiny little 15 minutes they are going to commit each day to some kind of yogic foreplay?

In my experience women become the most committed to exercise and fitness when they begin to see gains in strength and athleticism. Weight loss is all well and good, but being stronger and faster than you were before is addictive. No one gets addicted to weigh-ins and being neurotically focused on their clothing sizes.

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