If one more person tells you how healthy it is for you to be physically fit...how good it is for your mood, your mind, and your muscles...you'll scream. Doesn't anybody understand that between schoolwork and helping out at home, your part-time job, and the cruddy way you feel sometimes, you're just not interested in being a jock? All the talk about heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, colon cancer, and osteoporosis is stuff you'll deal with down the road, eons from now. Why can't they get that you'd rather diet to stay in shape than sweat and grow big, strong, unfeminine muscles?
What YOU might not get is that there are a lot of untruths floating around regarding exactly what being "fit" means. First off, let's admit that it seems harder for girls than boys to achieve optimum fitness. Boys who are taller, heavier, and stronger have bigger hearts and lungs. They are leaner than girls and they sweat more. Girls carry more body fat, are more vulnerable to iron deficiencies, need more calcium, and are at a higher risk for eating disorders. So what do we do, give up? Of course not.
To begin we have to distinguish between the fallacies and the truth. How many of the following statements do you believe?
- Being good at sports is the same as being physically fit.
- Fitness and slimness go hand in hand. Fitness is purely physical.
- Exercise is hard.
These are the kind of statements that make discussing fitness so difficult. While your brain might tell you that all of those statements are false, your heart, aided and abetted by images of super models, social pressure, and the media, work hard at trying to convince otherwise. Getting physically fit isn't about acquiring a perfect body. It is about having a body that feels good. Fitness is a fine balance between the right amount of physical activity and proper nutrition. Think of your body as a car you keep for life. In order to get the most out of it and feel the best and have energy, you need to give it the right fuel or food.
Gym class has made fitness phobics out of too many teens. Being active can be an avenue for camaraderie and relaxation, as much as calorie burning and competition. It can and should be fun. For those with an interest in sports, you will reap the benefits of being part of a team and being supported as you learn to take risks. For those not so inclined, there are loads of other empowering, noncompetitive fitness activities. The list—stretching, yoga, walking the dog, sit-ups, crunches, weights, the treadmill, exercise videos, circuit training, Pilates, bicycling or dance—is limited only by your creativity. Changing your routine will help keep it fun.
Relating fitness to how much you weigh is unrealistic and self-defeating. We don't know how to say this any other way: To be healthy and happy and physically fit, you don't have to be thin. Great bodies come in many shapes and sizes. To continue to judge yourself and others harshly, to believe you're going to be written off by the boys if you don't fit within the narrow boundaries the media dictates, to ignore what makes you unique, is plain crazy. Getting physically fit makes the statement that you are in charge of your life.
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