This article was published in 2013 and revealed information critical to women’s health. Women may be getting physically weaker due to lack of exercise. The article discusses how people in the past got more physical activity. This was necessary due to lack of modern conveniences and technology. Obesity rates increase in developed nations, while a segment of the population is obsessed with a thin body type. This makes women vulnerable to bone diseases. According to Grant Tomkinson muscular strength and endurance measures in the US, UK, and Canada hit their peak in the 1980s. Since then there has been a 10% decline and weight has increased. Women involved in athletics are not immune. The article states that Jessica Ennis Olympic track champion was concerned that her muscles were getting too large.Women being in a state of physical weakness is not natural. The truth is it is culturally induced. While it is true men have greater strength, physical weakness in women is promoted as a feminine trait.
This dated and sexist belief is harming the health of women. It is also doing damage to mental health.
The article recognizes the intense social pressure for women to be thin. Looking at fitness magazines the emphasis for women is a slim body. There is an opposite ideal for males who are encouraged to be as muscular as possible. According to the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation survey 40% of women’s motivation for exercise was to feel better about their appearance. Women fear weights because of looking “bulky.” Women will not look like men, which is an irrational fear. That can only happen with abuse of anabolic steroids. There is no such thing as “bulky.” Some women have the ability to acquire high levels of musculature. Professor Ken Fox who has a background in health sciences uses another colloquial term of ”toned.” He Sates “they can get toned, but looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger is not the issue.” There is no such thing as “toned.” Women are building muscle, but people are afraid to say so. Here you can see the gender bias, because many in the fitness and health field feel that muscle and strength is male only .
There is very little difference between a “toned” woman and a “hyper-muscular” woman. It is the degree of muscle that varies. Using this term only promotes a rigid gender binary in the fitness industry. Their needs to be a change in cultural attitudes. Women with muscle are still women.
One aspect that was disturbing was the lack of physical fitness among children. Many children do not play outdoors like other generations did. Children have become what Susan Campbell of UK Sport calls “physically illiterate.” Being able to run, jump, and throw have declined rapidly. This effects both boys and girls. Although later on, it harms girls more. Before puberty there is no difference in strength levels between the sexes. Boys will produce more androgens giving them more bone mass. Girls do not see this increase, which is why physical activity is critical. Girls are discourage from learning physical skills and playing sports. This needs to change, because it encourages physical activity through out life.
According to a survey done by the Women’s Sports and Fitness Foundation half of 14 year old girls found physical activity “unfeminine.” When boys were asked the same question it was only one third. It seems as if boys are more accepting of a sporty girl, but old fashioned belief systems are holding girls back.
There are negative repercussions for not being physically active. Women could be at risk of osteoporosis, arthritis, obesity, and chronic joint pain. Another health risk the article forgot to mention is eating disorders. Anorexia and bulimia effect women at higher rates and fad diets are at the root of it. The emphasis on thinness has become a deadly obsession. Fad diets as the article explains exclude protein which is essential. If protein is not part of your diet the body will start eating at body tissue. Muscles will atrophy.
Women must build as much mass as possible for the sake of their bones and overall health. As people age muscle mass decreases. Women considering they have less overall could see a dramatic decrease if they are not exercising. Lifting weights are more effective at managing weight and maintaining a strong body. Muscles are critical for movement and balance. This is an ignored women’s health issue, but change is slowly happening.
The article does end on a positive note. After seeing Jessica Ennis perform well in the Olympics and witnessing her stunning and powerful physique, many women are trying to emulate her look. However, there should be a level caution. The goal should not be to exchange one beauty standard ( thinness) with another ( muscular). The objective should be overall improvement of health, rather than aesthetics. Women were not designed by nature to be physically weak. Although sexual dimorphism is a biological reality, there are cultural factors that exaggerate differences in strength. The obsession with thinness must be challenged for the sake of women’s health.