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Getting Fit for Summer Means More Than Just a Beach Body

05/05/2016 10:23 | Updated 05 May 2016

With summer 2016 just around the corner, it's hard to imagine almost a year's sailed by since the hubbub surrounding Protein World's infamous 'beach body ready' advert.

Almost as predictable as the season itself is the glut of body shaming ads we're certain to be confronted with. Ads aimed at guilt tripping us into striving for the beach body we're conditioned to so desperately want. At the heart of this marketing onslaught is a single premise: happiness is beauty.

But really, if we're only focussed on our image, we'll never be body confident. That this comes as news in 2016 is enough to send anyone into a frenetic tirade of consternation and bafflement. And yet still the media prioritises image over health.

Billboards from Truro to Tower Hamlets will be plastered with adverts honing in on an instinctive desire for a slender physique. But all is not lost; ripples of change are afoot. Consumers are becoming more educated. Beyond the normal cohorts of gym nuts and fitness freaks, Joe public is increasingly aware that Tabata and Pilates - far from being something you need to assemble from Ikea - are the latest in a swathe of fitness regimes aimed at making exercise more accessible. It's heartening to see that fitness activities are something people want to share on social media and promote to others. People are more aware that the notion of the 'beach body' is a feeling rather than an image.

However, the fitness bug hasn't infected everyone. It's estimated 10.2 million British women fail to exercise because of body anxiety, while almost 10 million women in the UK feel depressed because of the way they look. The message is clear: focussing our attention on the way we look physically, as opposed to how we feel in our own skin is detrimental to our health.

Knowing what we know through these studies, it is clear more must be done to break down the barriers to exercise. That is not to say that we haven't already made a start. We're chipping away at the barriers to healthy living and encouraging exercise. Sport England started the wildly successful campaign "This Girl Can" inspiring women to exercise with no fear of judgement about how they look whilst doing it.

Dove's campaign for Real Beauty has initiated a global discussion about the need for a wider definition of beauty too. Encouraging these types of campaign is invaluable in making society listen to what real women want and need. We've come a long way but we have a lot further to go to before we can say society's refocused its preference from being skinny to being healthy.

This summer we will once again be surrounded by advertisements and promotions through magazines, newspapers and social media, telling us how to achieve the best beach body. They will get us thinking about the warmer months and how it's time to start peeling off the protective layers of jumpers and jeans we have been wearing all winter.

The ads might not change - but maybe our attitudes can. Summer 2016 should be about getting fit and feeling great - not conforming to someone else's standard of beauty. Our new focus has to be wanting to take care of ourselves and lead healthy lives. Without this change, being completely body confident remains a distant dream.

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