I once asked a gym manager what brought his customers through the door. His answer, “sex”, surprised me. I had expected a more conservative response, like “to lose weight”, “train for a sport” or “recover from illness”. He went on to say that in his experience of the industry what people want is to look good so they can attract, or keep, a good looking partner. I suppose this sort of makes sense. After all one of the first things many guys do when they split from their partner is head off down the gym to “get back in shape” (hear look more sexually desirable!).
The sex thing might explain why men and women often pursue different exercise regimens. Women, on the whole, dominate aerobics classes. These classes’ burn fat and tone muscle. Women tend to be concerned about their weight and hip size as cues to sexual attraction. Men, on the other hand, can usually be found pumping iron. Because of the male hormone testosterone, which is needed to build muscle mass, men can build and shape their body more flexibly than women. Men, often mistakenly, assume muscle size is a cue to sexual attraction (most women don’t like guys with huge muscles).
Sculpting the body beautiful may make us believe we are more desirable in the bedroom, but are there any health benefits from doing so? Until recently, there was a disparagingly small amount of compelling evidence to suggest it did. However, in the past few years there have been a number of studies that seem to have answered in the affirmative.
In one longitudinal study published in the BMJ (2008, vol. 337, p. 439) the researchers measured the muscle strength of 9000 American men and checked up on their health over 20 years. The weakest 30% of the men had a death rate 30% higher than the other guys.
This doesn’t mean to say that you should avoid aerobic activity on the back of this. One of the studies authors, Steve Blair, quoted in the New Scientist (9/1/10 p37) said “The bottom line is that both strength and aerobic fitness make independent contributions to health”.
So the message is clear: sculpting your beautiful body will make you live longer too, but don’t forget to look after your heart and lungs … even if nobody can see them.
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