The £60 Billion Con

When I tell people that I am a Personal Trainer, I can almost guarantee the next sentence I will hear…

“Oh, I’ve put on so much weight, I need to get back to the gym/start running/go back to Slimming World.”

And my response is always “do you, though?”  What has given them the idea that they need to lose body fat, and even if they think they should then why do they need to go to a gym or slimming club?  In this blog I’ll let you know why they think that and (spoiler alert) why I think the global fitness industry is a £60 billion con.

So, settle yourselves in, grab a beverage, and enjoy a little story about the beginnings of “fitness” …

Our tale begins in Ancient Greece, which is when the first real gyms were created.  But oddly enough they weren’t created so the Spartans could look hot in their battle-armour selfies.  Gyms were designed to train armies for war, and as athletic development centres – the Greeks loved an Olympic Games!

This theme of creating fit (exercise-fit, not phwoar-fit) soldiers in a gym environment continued for a few thousand years across shed-loads of different countries and cultures, from the Romans to the Nazis.  

Our next chapter in the story takes place in the Victorian era.  The industrial revolution was in full swing which created lazier posh people with less labour-intensive (i.e. they didn’t have to harvest their own) food available to them.  So, in an environment where people weren’t feeling quite as perky as they used to some genius came up with first commercial gym.  

But don’t be thinking it resembled a Victorian “Golds Gym”.  Instead imagine ladies walking around in corsets, not wanting to get a sweat on (although replace corsets for leggings and that actually does describe some modern-day gyms I’ve used).  The gym’s aim was to keep upper class people active and social.  Weight loss wasn’t a consideration.  In fact, up until the 1930’s the popular medical advice for obesity was bed rest. 

Gyms as we know them didn’t start until the 1970’s.  And they were a roaring commercial success.  Their rapid rise was down to two important happenings…  

Firstly, in 1950’s a famous nutritionist – Jean Mayer – experimented on rats, babies and schoolgirls (an eclectic collection of subjects, but whatever) and concluded that less active people were more likely to be overweight.  There was (and still is) a definite correlation between technology which allows us to move less, more calorie-dense processed food being available, and the increase in obesity.  And so, Mayer’s conclusions still stand as reasonable today.  His findings were taken up by leading governments of the time and lead to the creation of an industry which provided places to be more active… AKA exercise. 

The new gyms’ rise in popularity as the go-to method of weight loss was helped by another exciting new industry – commercial marketing.  The 1950’s brought about an explosion of advertising.  Which meant that by the 1970’s we had a perfect combination of overweight people, plus a way to tell the masses how to solve their weight problems. 

“Ooh look, you’re fat, but here’s a place where you can pay to get skinny”.  Yep.  The mother-fucking gym! 

The moral of the story is that we took some fairly decent science – you’ll probably end up fat if you spend your life on the sofa, eating too much shit food – and allowed Jane Fonda to tell us that your only option was donning your leg warmers and getting your ass to a class.  

Before gyms we didn’t really seem to have an issue keeping our weight in check.  It’s not like we were overrun with obese folks before fitness facilities were invented.  I hate to break it to you, but cavemen weren’t bench pressing sabre-toothed tigers to keep strong.  The Crusaders didn’t need to join an aerobics class make sure their 6-pack looked on point in their tabards.  So who decided that we needed a specific place of exercise to keep fit? … The fucking fitness industry did!  And they’ve been conditioning you to believe them for the last 50 years.  It’s no wonder that people I chat to reckon that this is their only option.  

But here’s the reality… the gym industry is growing year on year and is now worth £60 billion.  But has it solved the problem is was designed to fix?  Hell no!  If you listen to the stories we are being told, then you will have heard that the obeisty ‘epidemic’ is worse than ever.

Our physiology and biology haven’t changed during the last few thousand years.  The only thing that’s changed is our mentality and our technology.  We don’t need to spend our days foraging or hunting to keep active anymore.  

Our ancestors didn’t have FitBits to make sure they got 10,000 steps in.  They didn’t have to worry about going overboard on the Ben and Jerrys or weighing out the perfect amount of granola.  They didn’t need a multi-gym in their garage to get beautifully proportioned muscularity.  Turns out that carrying heavy shit and getting food did the job well enough.   

Now, I’m not saying become a Neanderthal if you believe that you need to lose a few pounds.  Your friends will probably stop visiting you if you shit in a hole and take them out hunting instead of meeting up in a fancy restaurant.  I’m simply begging you to stop complicating your health and fitness.  Stop being a sheep and believing the flat out lies that the fitness industry has done a fucking good job convincing you of.

There are ways to stay fit, active, healthy and bloody loving life without ever have to slog it out in a gym or listen to an annoyingly perky aerobics instructor.  

Don’t get me wrong, the gym is life to some people, and it helps their mental health.  But for most of us it just doesn’t work.  And if you don’t believe me, ask yourself how many times you have started a new diet and then crashed and burned?  How many times have you taken out a gym membership to be paying for sweet F.A. after one month?  If the gyms, diets, or classes were your thing then you’d never quit and you’d have the life of your dreams right now.  But do you?

So do you want to try a different way?  Join the revolution on Facebook or sign up to my blog to receive actionable and truthful steps to help change your views on what it takes to stay fit and healthy.

Stay weird, people!


(The Anti-Fitness Trainer)   

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