This year, I celebrated my 30th anniversary in the fitness industry. Reflecting back, the industry has come a long way since the early ’80s, when doing excessive repetitions of exercises at lightning speed with no awareness of technique was the only way to workout. It really didn’t matter what you did as long as you were wearing the right outfit! Don’t get me wrong, it was fun, but lacked intention.

Today, the level of education is greater than ever and certified fitness professionals have access to groundbreaking research in training methods, individual assessment and health and disease prevention. Training has become much more sophisticated, effective and methodical.

However, there is still an obsession with the body beautiful image that is portrayed in advertising, infomercials and the media. Recently, I heard a highly recognized fitness professional say, “I have to be this thin for people to buy my product.” I question whether we have grown at all or are we still attached to the idea that no matter what, it is how you look that determines whether you are fit.

According to Dr. Steven Blair, director of research at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas and one of the leading researchers in exercise, aging and medicine says, “Health and fitness is not determined by size.” In fact, it may have very little to do with the way we look.

Most people think that you can tell if someone’s fit, active and healthy just by looking at them. It’s not true. Fit, healthy people come in all sizes and shapes. The same is true of unhealthy people. I know several thin people who are unfit and have serious health problems. Weight and appearance aren’t everything.

We all have a genetic predisposition to be a certain body shape and size. Even though we engage in exercise or diet programs, our legs will never get longer, our height will never change and the fact that your body stores fat in your mid-section instead of your hips is predetermined.

I recently heard a fitness instructor call out to her participants, “Work harder to get rid of that tummy?” Or do 100 more reps and you will tone your arms. It is so frustrating to think that people still buy into the idea that doing an exercise for a targeted area can change its appearance. Spot reduction is a myth and we have known that for over 25 years. So why do we still buy into it?

We need to change our attitude toward fitness and pay more respect to how it makes you feel. People who exercise for health and well-being have a higher self-concept, maintain their fitness programs and live longer.

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