Kindly Louise, as someone who has been a dedicated gym rat for 46 years this year, I might gently challenge your inclusion of body building in this sentence. I lift, and always have, because I love being strong. Having grown up on a farm, I always have and always will like having a strong body. Because for the last ten years I’ve been doing adventure travel, if I’m not strong, I die. I’ve had horrific accidents that I just got up and walked away from- and yes, to the hospital. Had I not been strong, I would now be a quadriplegic. At my gym, there are so many women of all ages who are doing weight work because between weight work and aerobics, those are the twin pillars of great health. I write pretty extensively about this. To include weight work in your list as solely to impress people disregards plenty of research that shows that it benefits our bones, and extends life.

So while I agree that body sculpting and other procedures are more focused on trying to reach a goal of (impossible) perfection, I might offer that lifting weights isn’t just for those who are desperately trying to impress. Some are. And to your point, and again I’ve written about this too, there is a new vicious piece of business where women body-shame each other at the fucking gym. It’s hard enough to get up the balls to show up to build our strength. Like we need some snark to attack us because we’re not wearing $100 athletic bras. Well, kindly, FUCK.YOU.

My gym is full of women whose motivations range from improving their skiing, recovering from surgery, extending their lives and giving them strength they never had. I don’t question your point that some are there due to insecurity. But I would hesitate to make such a sweeping statement. You and I have no idea what everyone else’s motivations are. There is far too much excellent research that argues that people who lift weights- whether that’s using their own body weight or weights at the gym- enjoy better health and longer lives. For my part, it’s nice to have results, but I can tell you that it’s terrific feeling strong, confident, and able to move large pieces of furniture by myself because there’s nobody else around. As I roll inexorably towards 70, that strength serves me very well. At some point, and I say this with humor, the body wrinkles no matter what we do. The skin on my arms and legs is crinkling. I mean, come on, get the fuck over it. What I care about are strength, longevity, and the ability to keep on doing what I love: horse back ride, hike, kayak, you name it. Impress people? Fuck ’em. At some point, especially when you hit a Certain Age, you stop giving others agency over your life, your body, your body image.

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Horizon Huntress, prize-winning author, adventure traveler, boundary-pusher, wilder, veteran, aging vibrantly. I own my sh*t. Let’s play!

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