It feels like everywhere I look nowadays, there are "gym bunnies" posting Instagram snaps in their work out gear, flaunting their evidently active bodies. While it's great that more and more of us are feeling confident enough to take up exercise, I worry that there is too much emphasis on spending copious amounts of money on lucrative memberships and getting embroiled in a "I'm fitter and therefore better than you, you need to work harder and get rid of that cellulite" kind of culture. There seems to be an apparent missing-of-the-point; many of us join gyms in a bid to change how our bodies look on the outside as opposed to how healthy they are on the inside. We seem to want to metaphorically walk around with an "I WORK OUT" sign stuck to our heads. Personally, I don't think that's what leading an active lifestyle is all about.
I'm not a member of any gym. I used to go in my early teenage years but to be honest, I'd rather pick up dog poo than hop on the treadmill. It's just something I don't enjoy. On the occasions that I visited one, there was often an aura of determination mixed with desperation. Don't get me wrong; many of us use gyms for what they are meant to be used for. We use them sensibly and for the purpose of getting the blood pumping and the sweat pouring. But unfortunately, they can be filled with people who have been shamed into believing they need to alter the physicality of their body and have therefore turned to a gym to do just that - or - those who believe that maintaining a body which is societally accepted and hot is important (which let's face it, people can't exactly be blamed for, given the amount of "perfection" on display and the subsequent shaming that follows for anyone who doesn't meet the criteria.) There's no focus on health benefits, which I find very sad.
Being fit and healthy looks physically different for different people. Some of us who take part in rigorous workouts on a regular basis may not have the body which we would automatically conjure up in our minds to accompany someone so active. Human bodies have fat. Some of us retain more fat than others, regardless of how much we move. For me, there are other ways to maintain a healthy body and mind.
I like walking. I walk everywhere that I possibly can. Whilst under the tight grip of depression, I found the concept of walking any faster than a slug's pace ridiculous. But now that my mind is freer, I very much enjoy a good walk of decent pace. It seems like a glaringly obvious statement, but walking is free. If you can do it, take advantage of it! The health benefits that come from walking everywhere within reason as opposed to driving are undisputed; it strengthens your heart, lowers your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, can help prevent dementia and osteoporosis, boosts vitamin D levels, gives you energy and generally makes you feel happier. So why don't more of us do it?
It's very easy to forget - in such a commercialised society which over emphasises the benefits of spending your hard earned cash on places that advertise the fact that "YOU NEED TO JOIN A GYM IN ORDER TO BE HEALTHY, NOTHING ELSE WILL MAKE YOU FEEL AND LOOK AS GOOD AS OUR GYM!" that many things we can do for free will help our bodies to be healthier too. Instead of taking the lift, use the stairs! Get off the bus one stop early! Park the car a bit further away! Go for a jog! Dance to your favourite song! (Choice of fake microphone optional.) But most importantly, do not feel bad about your body. Do not feel bad about having days where you want to stay in your PJ's and not even leave the house. We all have those moments where we feel down and want to comfort ourselves. There's nothing wrong with that. That's life. Do not look in the mirror and wonder why all those hours spent being active have not "paid off", they have. Exercise for the way it makes you feel, not how it makes you look.
Regardless of whether you're a gym member, whether you spend 10 minutes a day being active or two hours, your body is beautiful. Wobbles, scars and all.