The image of a man with rippling muscles pumping iron to let off steam is a stereotype that few people bring to mind when they think of a woman keeping fit. In the case of the female fitness fan, the old fashioned image is of a sedate lady lightly perspiring in a gentle exercise class. Forget it! Today women are taking their fitness sessions seriously and adding power and gusto into their lives through vigorous workouts and exercise that is therapy for the body and the mind.
Exercise and fitness has evolved beyond recognition for the average woman compared with the not so distant past. With advancements in scientific understanding and research about health and wellbeing, there's been a real shift in women's approach to exercise as well as fitness styles and expectations. The gym is no longer the preserve of macho men and increasingly, intensive workouts are attracting women of all ages and fitness levels.
No longer the weaker sex!
You only have to look at movie characters such as Tomb Raider's adventurous Lara Croft and Underworld's toned and agile Selene, not to mention the tough-don't-mess-with-me Alice in Resident Evil, to see the archetypal female action heroine is a little more souped up these days. Forget the weaker sex, these women would make most men shiver in their running shoes. While many women don't aspire to attain such superhuman abilities, many want to be more than simply slender: they want to pump up a little. Toned muscles, taut abs and solid glutes are not just on the wishlist for men any more.
Energy reserves for lifestyle changes
Women have balanced the pressures of work, family and that small bit in between called their own life, for years. There's nothing new in that. However, what has changed is that the working woman of 2013 seems to have more demands on her time than ever, with an ever increasing schedule of must-dos to keep up with. But even the greater emphasis on leisure time that we now have, brings its own pressures and our lifestyles require lots of energy. Now, women realize more and more how exercise is essential to fuel their lives.
While some women don't relate to the impact of hormonal changes as much as others, exercise can help balance hormones to promote health and potentially reduce the risk of some serious illnesses, if recent research is anything to go by. Throughout the menstrual cycle and at various stages of fertility, hormones can really play havoc with a woman's emotions, clarity of thought and general feelings of wellness. This isn't a feminine issue only of course. However, by exercising and lowering fat levels, many women suffering the the effects of estrogen overload can lessen the burden. Exercise also triggers endorphins, serotonin and dopamine levels, the so-called 'happy' hormones that balance moods.
Reducing illness risks
With fast food, trends in fattening gastro style delicatessen and supermarket meal options and restaurants aplenty, it's not surprising that keeping the calories at bay can seem like an uphill struggle. Processed foods, hidden fats, and sedentary lifestyles are a recipe for disaster: heart disease and type 2 diabetes being the biggest killers. However, while you might be inspired to battle your bulge to fight off these two life-threatening illnesses, there are other reasons to keep fit. A recent University of Minnesota study reveals a link between aerobic activity and how the body breaks down and metabolizes estrogen. Researchers believe this in turn has an impact on the risk of breast cancer which is driven by estrogen, as well as other factors. With women becoming more holistic in their approach to health, exercise is seen more than ever as a vital component to living a healthy life.
Confidence, camaraderie and control
It's not just the body that benefits from working out, but the mind and psyche too. Getting involved and interacting with others is about more than exercise. It's also about meeting new people, communicating and finding your own path too. Women offer each other a supportive network that is emphatic and encouraging. If you have suffered a life setback, whether an injury, illness, or a confidence issue, can reclaim your personal power and rely on others who exercise right alongside you, helping you to keep up momentum every step of the way. Not letting stress take over, meeting new challenges on your own terms and being able to help others, are some impressive examples of how exercise truly is therapy.
Every woman needs to find a fitness program that works for her individual needs. We can offer you advice and support to help you find the right way to work out for you!
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