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Yes, fitness and wellness are actually feminist issues

Sara is a blogger, based in Providence, RI. She writes on health topics.

Exercise has become a feminist issue to improve the lives of women

In their day-to-day lives, women have been bombarded with the idea of exercise as a way to fulfill a social imperative. Whether it’s ways to get bikini ready in just four weeks or how to quickly fit back into our pre-pregnancy jeans, the subject of workouts has traditionally been focused on our weight and size rather than our overall health. Fortunately, that’s beginning to change. More women are embracing the long-term benefits of exercise and that is revolutionizing the physical fitness industry. From flexible gym passes that work with our busy schedules to fitness trackers and apps, we’re finding new and better ways to embrace our health. This is making it easier for women to find their own balance between family, work, and their health.

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Women know that exercise is good for more than a number on the scale or a particular dress size. The researchers are finding increasing proof that physical activity increases lifespans and reduces the risk of heart disease, breast and colon cancers, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, and a number of other medical conditions. At the same time, studies have demonstrated that increased physical activity has significant immediate mental benefits like improved memory and mood. These factors have made exercise a goal unto itself.

This change in attitude toward fitness has enabled more women to workout based on a positive desire for good health rather than out of a sense that their weight or size wasn’t good enough. In addition, prioritizing exercise became easier when it was less about one’s looks and more about a strategic investment in long-term health. We all want to live long and healthy lives to enjoy adventures, children, marriage, or whatever else life may hold.

To feel the burn, or not

Starting in the 1970s the bulk of medical theories about physical activity were focused on intense aerobic workouts for long periods of time. Participation in marathon runs and sweat-filled aerobic workout classes became the standard benchmarks for fitness. Sadly, this made participation in fitness activities less achievable for many average people. These high-impact workouts also included a greater risk of injuries that further limited the pool of participants.

Gradually scientists have developed a better understanding of what types of exercise are most effective. Over the last 20 years ground breaking studies have found that walking the same distance as running was equally, if not more effective, in terms of fitness and long-term health benefits. Increasing evidence points to the cumulative impact short periods of physical activity can have on overall wellbeing. Even spending large amounts of time each day sitting has been shown to negatively impact long-term health.

More: Health apps to get your fitness, napping and doctor's visits in order

End of the seasonal guilt trip

In the past, each year kicked off with hordes of people flooding gyms with memberships requests in an effort to successfully complete their New Year’s resolution to lose weight or get fit. After a noble start, the majority of these gym memberships would then go virtually unused for the rest of the year. Boredom or the reality of juggling work, family, school, and other obligations would usually combine to crush the best of intentions.

New fitness options

Consumers are demanding, and finding, more fitness choices. Services are offering pay-as-you-go or flexible gym passes to accommodate the busy schedules, rather than requiring year-long commitments to a single gym. These allow women to try different locations, types of working, and equipment to see what works best for them. In addition to traditional workout classes and equipment, more women are trying fitness training based on boxing, iron man competitions, martial arts, and other styles of workout than were traditionally almost exclusively for me. These new options make it easier to find activities you enjoy, plus, simply adding variety to workouts has been shown to improve health and increase the odds of meeting fitness goals.

Fitness trackers and apps have made it easier to keep walking and other workout goals on track and monitor progress. Tracking the number of steps or stairs completed during routine activities suddenly gives us credit for all of our efforts each day. This makes it easier to see the difference adding an extra walk around the block or flight of stairs can make to our total workout for the week.
This ease in tracking exercise, added to the recognition by scientists that just getting up a moving around during the day has health benefits, has made achieving fitness goals achievable by even those unable to set aside a chunk of the day for a workout. With the proven benefits of walking available to almost everyone, reaching new levels of health is now more within reach.
Lucky for us we live in a time when exercise has transformed from focusing on what we currently look like to a way for women to value themselves and health a priority. Regardless of your current fitness level, budget, and schedule, workout options are now available to help you reach your health and fitness goals, whatever they are.
Originally published on BlogHer.


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