Recently there has been a pretty big trend in social media of women focusing on leading a healthy lifestyle and in turn getting strong, not skinny. Now often trends within the health and fitness industry can cause someone like myself to cringe, but this is one when worded correctly I totally agree with. Now I am not someone who relates well to a lot of the types of images that are all over social media, from half-naked females, through to excessively ripped and yes strong but also at the same time “skinny” or excessively lean which for most is unachievable without excessive behaviors. However what I am for is the message that we do need to focus more on strength and overall health.
For decades, men have been pumping iron and hanging out in the “gorilla pit” or so we called in back in the day. While women have been running on the treadmill and joining aerobics classes. Now we are seeing a shift where more and more women are wanting to focus on strength rather than getting skinny. Which is fantastic and when done correctly is a great message to promote.
Obesity is now considered one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century and the pressure to be skinny has been a focus. Today though, it seems there is more emphasis for women to be healthy, fit and strong than ever.
Exercise scientist Steven Blair has conducted a lot of research showing that skinny people who are not physically fit and don’t live a healthy lifestyle have very high mortality rates. That overweight who are fit in comparison has a considerably better survival rate. He suggests, if you need to choose, you are better off gaining weight and keeping fit than dropping the kilos and ditching exercise.
Leading US cardiologist, medical researcher and author of The Obesity Paradox also agrees to say ‘a person who is thin but who has low muscle mass and is not physically active and has a low level of fitness has a very unhealthy profile…The overweight or mildly obese person who’s fit has a much better prognosis.’
This highlights the importance of separating the concepts of thinness and fitness. Often we perceive anyone carrying a few extra kilos as unfit and unhealthy, whilst those who are lean must be maintaining a rigorous exercise schedule right? And being thin is often associated with a type of social status and translated within the media as a major contributor to overall attractiveness.
Timothy Olds, a professor of health sciences at the University of South Australia suggests the evidence is mounting that your level of fitness is more important than what you weigh when it comes to your health. For those just edging into the overweight range, the emphasis should be put on living a healthy lifestyle than losing weight. By healthy lifestyle, he simply implies we should eat more fruit and veggies, get adequate sleep, reduce stress and exercise. Losing weight for those people carrying a few extra kilos isn’t necessarily going to make a difference to their health outcomes.
You might be thinking this is just further complicating the issues of body shape and health. It sure isn’t as clear-cut as smoking cigarettes, where we know that every cigarette is doing you harm. What is clear though is that our health can really benefit from keeping fit.
As a personal trainer, I love seeing people just embracing this change and start altering their workouts to place emphasis on building muscle over burning calories as there are so many positives. Weight-bearing exercising for women helps their bodies recover faster, increase energy, boosts their immune system, improves balance, starves off osteoporosis and can fast-track weight loss. The old theory of lifting weights will make you resemble a weightlifter is long gone!
Here are some of the benefits from a focus on a healthy lifestyle by getting strong, not skinny
1. Muscle definition
While I don’t want to place too much emphasis on the physical appearance as to why you should focus on getting strong, not skinny, having muscle definition is extremely gratifying. Defined muscles really tone your body and are a great representation of how physically fit you are. I’m sure if you have been working out, some of you have flexed your biceps with a little smile!
2. Improve bone density
Building strength can improve bone density which helps ward off the debilitating disease of osteoporosis. If you spend your time trying to lose weight to become skinny, you are at risk of losing crucial bone density, which is not a good thing.
3. Increased energy
Getting strong requires you to eat a balanced nutritious diet and together they can actually boost your energy. In comparison, dieting and counting calories will sap your energy rather quickly. You will probably also experience a shift in your mood too and not in a positive way.
4. Feel empowered
The feeling of empowerment I believe is a big reason why we are seeing the ‘strong is the new skinny’ trend flourish. There is no doubt, getting stronger whilst seeing improvements in your fitness helps boost your confidence and make you feel like you can conquer anything you put your mind to. This has a knock on effect and translates to other aspects of your life such as your relationships and career.
5. Burn more calories
Creating an exercise regimen which focuses on building muscles rather than burning fat will actually mean you burn more calories. By doing this you will have the ability to lose more body fat and get learner in a much shorter time frame than if you deprive your body of good food as your diet. Not only that you will look super toned and you will find you can eat more without worrying about gaining weight!
Focusing on getting strong, not skinny, doesn’t mean that you are going to resemble a bodybuilder. You are not going to look more masculine and lose your girly appearance. You may gain more weight on the scales, but this will translate into shape, tone, and fitness. I can almost guarantee you will gain in strength, energy, and confidence feeling happier about yourself from the inside out. So don’t aim to be skinny; aim to be a strong, fit and create a healthy lifestyle!
Are you wanting to add more strength work into your routine? Then check out the online gym for all our sculpt and tone workouts. Do these at home or take them with you to a gym. All the tools and education to help you add more strength training into life.