Next time you are in your local newsagents have a look at how the magazines are displayed. In most shops, the magazines are clustered closely together, almost suffocatingly so, as they compete for space and light. The height they're positioned at is key as well - it's no good being out in front if you are too high and next to the top-shelf material, or too low so that only toddlers and those prepared to make a conscious effort can find you. The sweet spot is in the middle of the rack - right in people's line of sight and not hidden behind other magazines.
It's rumoured that some of the big magazine houses, such as IPC media, have had deals in the past with chains to stock their magazines in prominent positions, such is the impact on sales this has. Whatever the truth, the positioning of magazines on display is vital and those starved of space and light would get a grim synopsis from David Attenborough: "The muscle magazine, try as it might, can't force its way into the light in this most demanding of environments. This magazine, just a year old, looks likely to go the way of other extinct publications. It is a stark reminder of the unforgiving environment where only the strongest survive."
It's understandable why magazines try so hard - being almost a bit, you know, desperate - to get our attention. Cover lines scream that if we were just to pick them up, if we would just give them a chance, then they would tell us the secret to a better body/better sex/better life. I've got a secret of my own to impart though: there is no vault of secrets that our brave publication has managed to infiltrate and bring back for you, dear reader. It's all a myth. I understand why they do it, but it makes me angry when I see a picture of a super fit model and an arrow pointing to her posterior alongside a jaunty font proclaiming: The four exercises that will get you a bum like this! Or alongside a rippling six pack: The diet secrets behind this flat stomach!
Where to start? How about genetics? These models may well have a genetic makeup that means they are more likely to be able to obtain this physique, compared to someone who may be a low responder. Just because one person's body reacts one way to, say, Pilates, it doesn't mean someone else's will. How about background? How has their diet has been for the last 10 years? What about age?
A lot of what is in fashion now - think functional training such as ViPR and TRX, and high-intensity training - isn't new. It's been around for years, it's just that things come back in vogue. Our understanding of the human body has improved and evolved over the past decade, of course it has, but it hasn't fundamentally changed for some time now. If you want to get a six pack, then cutting down to minimal body fat through diet and exercises that burn off more calories is the way to go. And, even if you do this, there's still a chance you won't get a six pack.
There is new information available in journals such as Sports Science and Medicine, but a new fitness method that has been robustly tested and has the science to back it up just doesn't just happen overnight. Someone doesn't just one day know the secret to getting big arms - new ways of thinking are mostly just tweaks to our existing knowledge and take time.
There are some great health and fitness magazines out there, with Men's Fitness a personal favorite, that provide good information about diet and exercise and, as a 'magazine person', I want as many people as possible to purchase them as the medium competes against the threat of the internet. Just don't pick them up thinking they'll provide some magical fitness elixir.