Tracy and I often get asked by friends–mostly academic friends–why they should care about fitness and health. And mostly we agree that you don’t have to care. It’s not mandatory. It’s really okay to think this stuff really doesn’t matter so much. You do you. And we’ve written about healthism and the politics of respectability here.
That’s my usual approach to arguments about whether fitness really matters.
But but but..I do want to say that it matters for a wider range of reasons than you might think and that some of these reasons have a connection to feminism. And that even though you think you don’t have reasons to care, you might be wrong.
So hear me out, please, all the while knowing that I agree that you don’t have to care, that it’s okay to never set foot in a gym, walk except in the mall, or lift anything other than books.
I’m going to post soon about brain health and staying sharp but today I want to direct your attention to Mike Valenti’s video about the case for fitness. His argument isn’t geared at young people. He’s talking about staying strong as you age and why that matters. The independence argument should speak to feminists, I think.
Fitness isn’t just about young people and sexy abs though that’s the way it’s mostly marketed.
Instead, it’s also about maintaining strength and functional fitness as we age. And those reasons might be the most important ones.
This video begins by noting that many people end up in assisted living facilities because they can’t perform simple actions like getting themselves on and off the toilet. That’s functional fitness and that’s the real reason to do squats.
So even if you don’t care about getting stronger or faster for the sake of getting faster and stronger, you probably do care about staying in your own home as long as possible. Maybe you hate sports. That’s okay. But you probably don’t hate the idea of maintaining your independence as you age. Maybe you hate all the focus on the way women’s bodies look. I hear you. I hate that too. But you probably do care about moving without pain.
So you can care about fitness without caring about sexy abs.
Though I have a soft spot for sexy abs too.
(And actually visible abs aren’t my thing really. That requires a pretty low percentage body fat. But muscles? I like them lots. See my post Fear of frail for details.)