How The Fitness World Has Evolved to Include Women

It’s easy to assume women are just as included as men are when it comes to fitness. Why not? We always see women working out in gyms, doing pretty much the same things men do. But it wasn’t always like this.

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Photo credit:  Kim Constable, with permission
Photo credit: Kim Constable, with permission

These days, it’s a no-brainer how much importance people place on health and fitness. There’s often a gym or some fitness-related establishment every corner we turn – especially for those who live in urban areas. 

With everybody shut-in during the lockdown last year, so many picked up on home fitness routines. Fitness YouTubers gained a lot of popularity. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s this: health matters.

And it’s easy to assume women are just as included as men are when it comes to fitness. Why not? We always see women working out in gyms, doing pretty much the same things men do.

But it wasn’t always like this. 

Women’s Fitness in History: A Brief Recount

Daniel Levine, a publisher in WikiTrends, summed up the way workout trends evolved over the years. “Workout trends change with the times and, just like so much else, they are inextricably related to the zeitgeist of their moment,” he said. 

During the early 1900s, women’s workouts were catered towards – yes, you guessed it: slimming. And their primary method of doing so included a lot of stretching. That meant the exercise machines for women were most often rowing machines, stationary bikes, and what was called a ‘Vibro-Slim’. The Vibro-Slim was a belt woman attached to their body that vibrated for the purposes of slimming the body down. 

Women’s activewear was also highly impractical. Aesthetics were prioritized over practicality. Of course, today, we know women can have both. But in those days, women in their early 20s wore dresses and heels when they exercised. 

From the 1930s, women began to ditch the heels when they exercised. Instead, they opted for a one-piece and gym shoes. 

Calisthenics and hula hoops gained popularity in the 1950s. The exercise routines for women became more rigorous. 

Spandex came into fashion in the late 50s. And in the 80s, aerobics and leg warmers were sported – many recognize this iconic look sported during the music video of Olivia Newton John’s infamous hit, “Physical”. Jazzercise was also something many women opted for. 

Men and Women in Fitness

Today, fitness for women looks remarkably different. Women have surpassed the old ideas of looking perfect and refusing to sweat profusely for the sake of looking elegant. Muscle building is no longer exclusive to men. 

It’s important to note, however, that fitness still looks different when it comes to different sexes. Women, for instance, typically have lower testosterone levels but higher estrogen levels than men. And these higher testosterone levels enable men to naturally gain muscle mass quicker.

So, what do these physical differences mean? Are there some things men do that women just can’t do?

Obviously not. In fact, more and more women are getting involved in strength-related sports like CrossFit and weightlifting. 

In fact, some even encourage women to practice strength training.

Take Kim Constable, for example. She’s a homeschooling mother of four. At the age of 37, she became a bikini competition athlete. Today, she is the CEO of The Sculpted Vegan who specializes in vegan bodybuilding and fitness routines.

“Lifting weights 2-3 times per week is extremely beneficial for women to reduce their risk of osteoporosis by promoting bone health,” advised Shelley Armstrong, a Ph.D. holder at Walden University’s College of Health Professions. 

Jan Todd, the first woman to deadlift a total of 400 pounds, once said, “Strength should be an attribute of all humanity. It’s not a gift that belongs solely to the male of the species.”

Easing Qualms Surrounding Fitness for Different Sexes

A common worry women have when opting for a workout routine based on strength is that their bodies might veer a little off-course from the mainstream standard of beauty. 

First of all, all body types are beautiful. And secondly, this is a myth. 

“[This worry is] borne out of a misunderstanding of muscle physiology, where the belief is that if you lift heavy weights you’ll bulk up, and if you lift lighter weights for more repetitions you won’t,” said Tony Boutagy, a sports scientist. 

This issue isn’t reserved for women. Many men, too, hesitate when it comes to workouts that are typically ‘feminine, so to speak. Some prime examples of this would be yoga and pilates. The truth is that these workouts improve core strength, posture, and flexibility.

And when both men and women shy away from diversifying their workout routines, they limit their chances of reaching their health’s fullest potential.

 In the end, it all comes down to individual choice. People need to recognize their bodies’ needs. They need to know what their fitness goals are. Without motivation, reaching one’s goals is impossible. 

Women Only: A Welcome Trend in Gyms

Photo credit: Kim Constable, with permission

Particularly after COVID-19, fitness started to look very different for everybody. For women, a huge trend that’s gaining much popularity these days is the rise of female-owned gyms. 

Women’s gyms were recently trending on TikTok, where users were highlighting these gyms on their videos with the hashtag #WomensOnlyGym. 

Female-only gyms are great for various reasons – but perhaps the most significant reason boils down to safety. As a woman, working out in a gym with other men can be uncomfortable. It’s not unusual to hear a girl tell her friends the story of how she had to skillfully maneuver her way out of a man’s advances at the gym. 

In this way, there’s a bit of ‘discrimination’ in fitness. Where men can exercise freely and comfortably, women don’t usually have the same experience. So, female-only gyms are a great step forward in dealing with this issue.

Why We’re Happy to See Women Dominating Fitness-Related Businesses

Social media now boasts of plenty of female-oriented fitness accounts, too. Women like Samaiyah Williams, Madfit, and Chloe Ting have gained a lot of hype surrounding their content. They, alongside many other female influencers on the internet, show women everywhere that workouts for women aren’t as limited as they used to be. 

“Most people in [the health and fitness] business go about it all wrong,” Kim Constable said. “They focus on trying to find more people for their programs, instead of more programs for their people…I know that when someone tries something new, they are vulnerable. They need support.”

Constable is right in this regard. Workout programs should be focused on people. They should be focused on serving the needs of both men and women. 

If a piece of clothing doesn’t fit, then it won’t hurt to tailor it to fit. All bodies are designed differently; this can be attributed to age, sex, health-related conditions, and so on. But that doesn’t mean workouts can’t be tailored to suit a person. What matters is that each person gets the opportunity to reach their fitness goals. 

And with the developments happening in women’s fitness today, it’s safe to say that we’re heading in a good direction for now. 

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