Unfashionista loves fitness. I push Leslie Sansone’s walk videos on everyone. You shouldn’t sit at your desk for hours at a clip. Try this 3 minute mini-walk – you’ll feel much better. If you can handle this, you can handle a one mile, 15 minute walk.
Peter and me this summer at Coachella, headlined by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, whom he co-manages. It was a pretty awesome backstage, with visitors including legendary producer Rick Rubin and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, whose son Patrick is a fan.
As you will note, I am wearing a white body from TopShop with a picture of a black tiger on it. I also wore a pair of shorts and FitFlops.
There’s something about rock and roll, and heat, and rock and roll combined with heat, that makes you think you can get away with anything. I kept that TopShop body in my drawer for years after buying it going “What are you thinking? You are 39. You cannot wear a body with a tiger on it.”
But I did wear it and I looked great in it.
Elsewhere I’ve blogged that exercise is the fountain of youth. Well, I want to add rock to that. It keeps you young, and fit, and connected with the purest part of yourself, the animal pleasure in both music and belonging to a rebel tribe. So we wear black leather and studs and tiger bodies.
On stage, Flea and Anthony Kiedis were bouncing around with quite extraordinary athletic ability in front of the sea of worshipping fans that stretched out as far as the eye could see. Peter lifts. Brian Johnson from AC/DC, and his wife Brenda, who looks 25 years younger than she is, work out fanatically too. They showed me their gym. He works, he drives, he races cars faster than speeding bloody bullets, he pumps iron and he can still sing his guts out in any gig or world tour. AC/DC’s Black Ice tour grossed almost a half a BILLION dollars. $441 million dollars. US, that is, not Australian.
The fitter you are the harder you can rock. Hey, listen, Axl Rose used to be sexy. Not so much any more. And his stagecraft is as bloated as his chin. Come to think of it, all the musicians I know work out like the devil. You ever seen Rob Trujillo from Metallica, who I toured with as a 22 year old back when he was in Suicidal Tendencies? The dude is cut.
I think fitness and rock go together these days because both bespeak a huge zest for life. Knocking you out with those American thighs…
This was no fun. Not meeting Lady Thatcher – that was one of the greatest honours I could imagine. But looking at myself in the photo afterwards; ; heavy, crumpled, tired, like I’d just given up.
The title of this piece is a takeoff of the famous book by Susie Orbach, “Fat is a Feminist Issue”, 2006. http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Feminist-Issue-Susie-Orbach/dp/0099481936/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1361449961&sr=8-1&keywords=fat+is+a+feminist+issue
It’s a worthy tome, discussing body image pressures and the uselessness of dieting. I’m certainly with her on the latter. And on the former, women are bombarded with contradictory pressures. The biggest ones come from the fashion industry, of course. Models are grossly underweight, and magazine images are airbrushed. No, you’ll never look like those women – *those women* don’t look like that either.
But unfashionista does believe in fitness. When I started
the blog, I got a tweet from “intersectional feminist” @Jonanamary onTwitter (no, me neither) saying that the line “half an hour’s jogging a day” is what makes you look slimmer” was sexist, fattist etc etc. I should not criticise fat, but celebrate it. Equally, I should not make the observation that most models are too skinny and not like real women.
We debated back and forth for a bit until I asked her if she was saying that it is wrong to advocate healthy body weight as a goal. If so, unfashionista rejects that totally.
Nobody should ever be ashamed of their body. unfashionistas love their curves and dress to show them off – see Plus Size Style gallery – or of very skinny they play that up too. But accepting your body and being proud of who you are does NOT mean you don’t also try to change it.
What does fitness do for style and beauty? Everything. Even before you lose weight, you firm up. If underweight, you will get a better appetite from a brisk walk. Your skin clears up. You sleep better. You raise your self-esteem, and that leads you to dress more confidently. You will become less depressed – aerobic exercise has been shown in study after study to have an anti-depressant benefit equal to talk therapy. You will be at less risk of osteoporosis in later life. You’ll have great legs and a nice, firm, round tush.
In the day with your kids, or at work, or both, you’ll have more energy, You will achieve more at work because of your extra energy and confidence. It becomes likely you’ll live longer. You will reduce anxiety attacks (something I know all about). You’ll drink less alcohol because you’ll be less stressed. If you could take a pill for ‘half an hour’s exercise a day’ it would be the most successful drug ever invented.
So why don’t women work out? Why is our average size (for both men and women) overweight? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/8302176/British-women-become-the-fattest-in-Europe.html
I think you can blame all kinds of factors. Modern life is sedentary. Gym memberships are expensive, and mums feel shut out. Why join a gym? You have to pack your stuff, get there, work out, shower, get changed and get back to home/work. So a half hour jog on a treadmill is 1.5 to 2 hours time commitment. No mum has that time to spare!
Then, exercise doesn’t seem to work. You start out in January with your resolutions, full of hope. You kill yourself jogging, hate it, feel out of breath and freezing, and don’t go again.
Exercise as usually practised is unpleasant. Women join classes with much fitter, slimmer women, and it’s a pain. Women kill themselves following DVDs with intricate steps. They literally try to run before they can walk. Exercise is thus to be dreaded, and guess what?
You can never consistently do anything you hate. Nor can you consistently refrain from anything you love.
There is only ONE way to get fit and stay fit if you’ve never done it before. Find exercise you either positively like, or don’t hate, and do it every day, or at least five days a week.
The stuff the papers feed you is rubbish. Twenty minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week won’t help. If you only work out three times a week, you will never feel the true improvements that will make you stick at it. Also, you will relapse so that each time you start it’s as tough as the time before. Work out Monday-Friday or Mon-Sat, and within one week (by Sat, or by Fri) you will feel ‘this is easy, I can do this’.
I was so depressed when after birth I weighed nearly 180 lbs. I felt fat, exhausted, unattractive and gross. No way was I heading outside in a tracksuit to be laughed at. Plu
s I wanted to be near the baby just in case. I was breastfeeding, I was tired and I had neither the time nor the inclination to get to a gym I couldn’t afford and workout with all the superfit heroes.
Here’s what I did – Lesley Sansone. You see her 5 minute walk break elsewhere on unfashionista. She revolutionised exercise for many, because she produced DVDs that literally any able-bodied person can do and can do every day. £12.95, and your life will never be the same again.
Just read those reviews, ladies!
Get a pair of running shoes and a sports bra and get this DVD. It contains two walks. The one mile walk is just 15 minutes. Start with that. the two mile is 30 minutes. Once you get to the two mile daily you will be really seeing changes in your life.
This is how I started. And
eventually I progressed to outside in the spring, walking a bit then jogging a bit, then jogging, then running, and now adding w
eights. It was a slow progress over a couple of years, but always getting better, always a journey, always progress. It changed my life and made me so much happier.
With Sansone’s walking, I could do it. The blood flowed. It was private. It fit in around ME and MY schedule. When I had half an our or even just fifteen minutes and the baby w
as napping, on went the trainers and the DVD and off I started.
Please consider giving yourself this gift. It’s beauty, style, and happiness all at once, and all in thirty minutes. Best of all, that time is time for you – nobody else. No boss, no kids, no husband, just you, and your body and your life.
Just do it – five days a week, not three. It will be the best beauty decision you ever make.
Photo on left, 2003. Photo on right, 2013.
2008, pre-exercise. No make-up, hair scarfed into pony tail. Baggy “silky” top. (Hiding). The necklace just draws attention to the overall disaster.
Well, who would have thought that a tweet on yesterday’s three minute mini-walk would excite such a storm?
“Exercise is the best anti-depressant,” I said, “anyone can do it” – and linked to the short, easy deskside walk you see on the blog right here.
Cue first a storm of people taking issue with the idea that exercise is an anti-depressant, that anyone can do it, and that it’s the best anti-depressant.
But all three statements are true.. I was then inundated with people telling me how exercise had alleviated their own or a loved one’s depression /bipolar/ odd /anxiety, and by another set of people telling me that to say exercise was an effective treatment for depression was a nonsense and was minimising depression. It was a fascinating debate as I sat getting my hair done, which I hate, but I had roots as long as a gnarly oak tree so eventually you have to sit through the tedium.
First, the idea that anything other than a drug is an anti-depressant. This is semantics, but in common terminology exercise is often referred to that way. A handful of links:
but there are innumerable examples. So much for the semantics.
Next, to the idea that saying “exercise is the best anti-depressant” is minimising depression. It isn’t; not in any way. Depression is an incredibly dehabilitating illness, often recurring, and afflicting vast swathes of the population – and women more than men (less testosterone). Depression is characterised as mild, moderate and severe. The severely clinicially depressed often feel that they cannot get out of bed. They lose interest in everything around them. Mild and moderate cases of depression are varying degrees of joylessness, rumination, thoughts of death and all the other symptoms that go with the disorder. It is not the same as sadness, and can afflict anyone – the rich and famous as much as the unemployed or poverty stricken. It is not sadness; it is a disease.
Rather, to say “exercise is the best anti-depressant” is to acknowledge the science on the efficacy of regular exercise in fighting depression. Those telling me “you’re not a doctor” were un-swayed by the UK’s National Health Service saying the same thing:
“Exercise can help people recover from depression and prevent them from becoming depressed in the first place….Anyone with depression can benefit from doing regular exercise, but it’s especially useful for people with mild depression.”
Anyone with depression.
I tweeted that exercise was good for mild to moderate depression, but not severe depression. In this I may have been too pessimistic. Here is a study that tested exercise on older patients with Major Depressive Disorder:
“Although antidepressants may facilitate a more rapid initial therapeutic response than exercise, after 16 weeks of treatment exercise was equally effective in reducing depression among patients with MDD.”
and here is one examining exercise as a factor in suicide risk amongst veterans suffering PTSD:
“While exercise reduces depression, and reductions in depressive symptoms are linked to reduced suicidal ideation, no studies have directly linked exercise and suicide risk… in a sample of Veterans. SEM analyses revealed that exercise was directly and indirectly associated with suicide risk. Additionally, exercise was associated with fewer depressive symptoms and better sleep patterns, each of which was, in turn, related to lower suicide risk.”
So, if you want to see the hard evidence on exercise as an antidepressant, Google Scholar can help you out. Here is page after page of clinical studies: dive in, read up.
OK, so science says exercise is a highly effective anti-depressant for ALL types of depression, including Major Depressive Disorder.
But was I saying exercise could “cure” depression? Or that you should throw away your medication? Certainly not. Many depressive and anxiety disorders require multiple interventions; medication, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), talk therapy – and exercise. A doctor can best determine the needs of the individual. Since exercise is shown to have such a clinically beneficial effect on all types of depression, it can be fruitfully ADDED to any program of anti-depressant interventions – and it will probably help.
It can certainly do no harm. The NHS guidelines say “to be healthy, adults need to exercise moderately 150 minutes a week.” Did you notice that? The NHS is recommending half an hour Monday to Friday – FIVE times a week, not three, and half an hour, not twenty minutes. Although you could chop it up.
But what about those suffering from major depression who can’t get out of bed? Well, their doctors will prescribe to their needs – medication, CBT. And using CBT, the depressed patient may then be able to start a gentle programme of exercise.
Indeed the fury of those tweeting (with clearly no knowledge base) that exercise was not good enough for depression jusrt had not read the science. You cannot go here
and not be overwhelmed by the evidence for exercise against this hated and often deadly disease.
But OK, OK, you say, even if I *am* swayed by all these studies you still can’t say it’s the BEST anti-depressant.
I think you can. What one therapy can be applied to all types of depression? Has only beneficial side effects? Can be undertaken by almost everybody? (I was given the example of people with disabilities so severe they could not move at all – fair enough, but almost everybody can exercise, and the general point stands. “Everybody can do it” is a pretty general statement. I don’t get furious tweets when I say “everybody can try BB cream” from people pointing out that some have no arms or hands and cannot apply BB cream – the obvious generality is taken as read).
Prozac may be for one patient. Zoloft for another. St. John’s Wort for a third. Adderall for a fourth (it has off-label uses as an antidepressant). CBT and meditation for yet another. But what one therapy can be of benefit to all these patients and all those suffering depression?
Exercise. It’s not necessarily a cure, but it is a help, and if done with intensity and frequency, it is a major help. The evidence base is unchallenged. It can assist on its own, it can assist in combiation with therapy and it can assist in combination with medication.
If you feel you suffer from depression – of whatever severity – do not suffer alone. Go to see your doctor, and while you are there, ask him/her if adding regular exercise to your program of treatment is a good idea for you.
Oh, and one thing that will NOT help depression, of any severity?
Alcohol. It’s a depressant.
Go for a jog – not a glass of wine.