I have three questions for each of you.
1. Are you completely happy with your body?
2. Do you know anyone who is?
3. Do advertisements affect the way you look at yourself and others? Could fitness advertisements have a different outcome?
Whether you exercise or not, everyone has a body image, and most everyone has a negative one sometimes. Body image refers to what we think our bodies should look like, as opposed to what they actually look like. Also, we think our bodies look one way instead of the way it actually appears; for example, you might consider yourself “chunky” when you are actually a healthy weight.
Exposure to the media and advertising causes many people, particularly women, to have false ideas on what their bodies should look like. When you think your body looks differently than it actually does (thinking you look bigger than you actually are), or when you think your body should look differently than it does, then you have an unhealthy body image.
What makes this situation particularly awful is that advertisements can present an ideal body image that is genetically impossible for most women to achieve. Fashion advertisements highlight the tall, skinny, and curvy figure for women. Now with fitness advertisements, women are encouraged to ALSO have muscle tone. This can get ridiculous! You can’t have it all, but for some reason, women believe they should.
Surprisingly, advertisements for fitness do not have AS MUCH of a negative impact as other body-based advertisements do. Clearly, they can and do spark negative body image. However, I found it interesting that research has found these fitness advertisements might be less harmful for three reasons.
1. Fitness advertisements usually promote more than weight management. These advertisements might cause less self-discouragement because they encourage individuals to actually be healthy, not just thin.
2. Additionally, fitness advertisements highlight what the body can DO, instead of only what it looks like. This can also impact body image, since other research has suggested that body image improves not only with appearance changes, but with its capabilities. People who notice they have improved in strength, flexibility, or endurance think about their bodies in a more positive way.
3. Lastly the bodies of “fit” people can be seen as “extreme,” a.k.a. unattainable. Some research suggests that advertisements of extreme bodies do not have as much of an impact on our body image as more realistic bodies do. Thus, there is a possibility that seeing a toned fitness model is less harmful to our body image, since for some reason this is seen as less achievable than a skinny fashion model.
Well, I guess THIS doesn’t exactly turn me green with envy…
If anything, this controversial information proves that we need to be aware of how we react to advertisements. Are we appreciative and impressed by the power of the body, or do we beat ourselves up? Nobody is going to have perfect body image all of the time (unless you’re one of my conceited brothers, but they have other mental issues….just kidding); however, we can always work to improve it.
Next time you look in the mirror, find at least ONE aspect of your body that you like. This is not arrogance! You do not have to post any shirtless pictures on Facebook (in fact, please don’t!), but you do have to be able to look at yourself and NOT cringe COMPLETELY.
Those of you who are serious about staying healthy probably know how important it is to stay informed. Jillian Michaels says she stays informed and up to date by reading every fitness magazine she can get her hands on. Doing so provides her with a variety of opinions and information, which is tremendously important for becoming well-rounded in such an important field.
That’s great, but not all of us can afford to subscribe to a dozen magazines. However, with journalism switching from print to digital, there are so many blogs out there with loads of information.
CAUTION: There are SO many fitness myths, so be careful with whom you deem credible!
Lucky for you, I am enough of a nerd that I have three great blogs to recommend to you. I do not completely endorse anyone, but so far these three have pleased me with useful, accurate, and entertaining information.
1. Shut Up + Run
Beth is a 45-year-old runner with a sense of humor. She provides information on running, such as training plans and treating injuries. However, she also has a sense of humor that might make you fall out of your chair. Her blog is concise and easy to read, so it won’t cut too much time away from Facebook!
2. Peanut Butter Fingers
Julie is 27, and I recommend her blog because of the delicious and healthy recipes. She posts three times a day, once for each meal, and keeps her followers up to date on her latest workout adventures. She is also periodically sponsored by clothing companies, such as Old Navy, and writes reviews on performance-wear.
3. Natalie Jill Fitness
Natalie Jill is a fitness model, but she has devoted her life to helping other people improve their health. I encourage her blog for the recipes (yes, if you haven’t noticed, my top priority is food). She is also excellent at pointing out which foods are “clean,” and which contain a lot of pesticides, fillers, and other nasty stuff we shouldn’t be fueling our bodies with.
So there you have it. Be careful where you get your information from, but do not remain ignorant! Even if you are a well-informed and healthy person, there is always more to learn.
Photos compiled and edited by Anna Kallschmidt
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/elle-epp/4390929373/”>Elle_Ann</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a
Why do you exercise? Or better yet, why don’t you exercise?
When most people think of exercise, they think of changing their appearance. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this. Usually, exercise does improve your appearance! However, in one of my classes we have been studying how people tend to exercise more consistently and effectively if they have other motivations.
I know it’s sometimes harder to imagine better motivation than skinny jeans, but how about your own health? It’s true, we all love to improve our appearance, and that’s fine, but being active and maintaining a healthy body weight is probably much more important than you think. We all know obesity is bad for your health, but why is it so detrimental?
Did you know that the leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, accidents, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, nephritis, influenza, pneumonia, and suicide? Did you know that obesity is directly linked to heart disease, certain cancers (colon, breast, endometrial, and gallbladder), respiratory problems, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression? Clearly, you cannot prevent all injuries, diseases, and accidents (trust me, I still have a road burn scar on my shoulder), but what we can do is use our healthy choices to enhance our well-being.
Sure, we’re all going to die one day, and on some days we’re all going to feel like we’ve been run over by a rabid cat driving a school bus (or is that just my imagination?). Use your healthy heart and lungs to play with your kids, strong arms to open your own peanut butter jars, happiness to cause others to smile, and your increased chance of longevity to get to know your grandkids.
Take care of yourself so you can enjoy your life and spend it with those you love. I encourage you all to set goals for yourself as well as with your physical goals. Don’t just focus on getting a flat stomach. Also shoot for learning how to dance with your partner, feeling more energetic, or becoming more resistant to sickness.
What is holding you back? What do you have to lose? Are you afraid to fail? Are you afraid to try?
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/presidioofmonterey/6878879116/”>Presidio of Monterey: DLIFLC & USAG</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>, edited by Anna Kallschmidt.
With finals week in view, I am hearing a lot of people say they “do not have time work out” because they have to study.
My first thought is, “shouldn’t you have been studying all semester?” After putting my foot in my mouth, I then thought about how exercise helps our brains, which over time might help us during finals week.
Modern technology has proven that exercise actually CAN make you smarter. When your muscles contract, they send chemicals to your brain. One of these is called “IGF-1,” which signals your neurotransmitters to produce brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF). This chemical is what leads to “higher thought.”
BDNF causes the brain’s nerve cells to branch out, connect, and communicate with each other in revolutionary ways. Every time nerve cells connect, that signifies a new fact or skill that has been acquired and stored in the brain. This makes sense, considering all of the “skills” that exercise fosters, such as balance, strength, hand-eye coordination, quicker reflexes, etc. Brains with higher amounts of BDNF are better able to acquire and store knowledge. On the other end, brains with low BDNF do not have a high capacity for knowledge.
As humans age, they lose some of the individual neurons in their brain. Scientists used to think that this damage was permanent; however, recent discoveries have proven that cardiovascular exercise can actually help the brain form new neurons. Science speculates that aerobic exercise might increase the levels of BDNF, which may stimulate nerve growth. One of the first skills to disappear with aging is matching names to faces. Aerobic exercise has been proven to help with this because it supports growth of neurons in the hippocampus, which is the region of our brain that we use when we correlate names and faces.
Overall, exercise increases blood flow throughout the brain, which helps the brain build new cells because it forms new capillaries. Additionally, some athletes have more “astrocytes,” which are cells that support neurons and clean up neurotransmitters after they have relayed messages between cells. This helps people focus, calm down, and act less impulsively. Essentially, you are getting the benefits of a medication, without the side effects! Alright!
Clearly, skipping your bio-chemistry to lift weights is not going to necessarily help you ace your test. However, developing a consistent habit of regular exercise could prepare your brain for comprehending all of that nonsense in time for your final. Happy studying!