A slim and slender frame is often viewed as the most coveted body shape for females. This ideal is reinforced by the media, fashion industry and popular culture on a daily basis. Magazines, adverts and model campaigns all show evidence of this aesthetic being lauded, and anything that deviates from it being considered less appealing. The coveting of this form appears to dictate that only skinny is desirable, showing little acknowledgment of any other form being remotely appealing.
Thankfully, there appears to be a new influx of women who are shunning this perceived ideal in favour of a healthier, more toned physique. Acknowledging their influence, many in the public eye are using their bodies to promote a healthier ideal. The July addition of Sport magazine used a stunning piece of photography on their front cover. Jessica Ennis-Hill, national treasure and London 2012 poster girl, hands on hips with her trademark abs of steel on full display.
The public reaction to this pictorial suggests healthy bodies are beginning to get the recognition they deserve. Sport magazine received many tweets praising their use of such a powerful image of whom they describe as ‘Wonder Woman’
‘In total awe of Jess Ennis’ abs on the front cover of @sportsmaguk today. More female body role models like this in the media please #positive’ @LeishaHawkEye
‘Stunning image of the iconic @J_Ennis on the front of @sportmaguk. Sometimes they really get it right.’ @rolyhamroll
‘Woah, HOW awesome does @J_Ennis look in today’s @sportmaguk? Now that is a powerful and healthy body. What a woman!’ @Sarah_robbo
The girl who can do no wrong epitomises that fit, healthy and active is beautiful. She certainly recognises the influence she holds, recollecting how she avoided the local chippy in the lead up to 2012 with her honed physic looking down on her from a poster outside.
Ennis is not the only popular figure who realises the effect her notoriety can have. Jennifer Lawrence, star of the Hunger Games, spoke of her desire to promote a healthy body image through the medium of the film.
Speaking to Newsnight’s Zoe Conway, Lawrence said:
“We have the ability to control this image that young girls are going to be seeing (in the Hunger Games). They see enough of this body that they will never be able to obtain and it’s an amazing opportunity to rid ourselves of that in this industry”.
The growing support of healthy bodies could not come at a more important time; obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the USA in the past 30 years according to the Centres for Disease control and prevention. The figures from the UK are following the same worrying pattern.
A trend towards a strong muscular physic is a positive one. The job of exercise professionals is to encourage women that this is a healthy body to strive for, and to facilitate the ability to make it both attainable and maintainable. It is important to communicate the importance of moderation; neither extreme is desirable. Avoiding exercise for fear of an ‘unwomanly form’ is as unnecessary as lifting weights until biceps resemble Madonna’s or Jodie Marsh during her crazy phase. Promoting a lifestyle that incorporates activity as often as possible is the best way of demonstrating that fit is healthier and happier. Rivalling Mrs Ennis-Hill or her fellow heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson – who sports an equally defined physique- in the next Olympics may not be realistic ambition, but leading an active lifestyle is. Have red cheeks; run like no one is watching. Sweating is good for you. Take pride in your cyclists calves; obliques aren’t just for men. Exercise professionals have a duty to be acclaiming activity as a lifestyle choice, and the multitude of benefits that it brings. Other than achieving a strong physique, the implications for health, well-being and stress relief are also significant.
The acknowledgment of this new aesthetic represents an important time, both for women in general and the fitness industry. Use this shift in thinking to educate people in the benefits of exercise, and it will become the norm. This could be the start of a movement where more attention is given to females winning grand slams with killer thighs than writhe around naked on wrecking balls in music videos, and rightly so.