Fiona McCade: No point in muscling out evolution’s plan
WHENEVER I watch the end of The Lord of the Rings, I marvel at how Frodo can hang off the edge of a cliff, above an exploding volcano, holding on with just one hand – that’s missing a recently bitten-off finger – for at least 30 seconds.
Then, he still has enough brawn to haul himself up to safety.
While I applaud the amazing upper-body strength of hobbits, I know I wouldn’t have lasted a millisecond in the same situation. I’d have dropped like a rock into the chasm of Mount Doom and been burnt to a cinder. No happy endings for me, thanks to the fact that I have the muscle tone of a jellyfish.
I always thought my weediness was genetic, but now it seems that I might actually be letting my ancestors down. Recent research from the University of South Australia indicates that people – especially women – in the West are fast losing their physical strength. Since 1985, when our overall muscle-power peaked (it must have been all those Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger films), we’ve been getting weaker and weaker.
Past generations would probably be ashamed of us. I know for sure that I could never have beaten my maternal grandmother in an arm-wrestling contest. She brought up three kids, survived a Depression, scrubbed steps, and beat Hitler into the bargain. She was made of stern stuff and needed nobody to help her get the tops off jam jars.
I realise I’m a disgrace, but in my defence, I don’t think I’m much more useless than I was in 1985. Considering that I was mainly raised on Vesta ready-meals, Angel Delight and Cresta, it’s a miracle I can lift the TV remote.
However, I can carry heavy shopping bags for about a mile, lug a protesting 7-year-old upstairs to bed, and play Wii boxing for a good half hour. I can dig cars out of snow; I can even prise apart small pieces of Lego. I’m not a total write-off in the strength stakes.
Anyway, although our recent ancestors were obviously tough, resourceful people, they can’t all have been bruisers. Have you seen some of the women’s clothes from the 1950s? They’re tiny. The waists are about the circumference of a modern woman’s arm, thanks to decades of malnutrition, rationing and war. Come to think of it, I bet I could have beaten Audrey Hepburn in an arm-wrestling contest.
One of the problems women face today is that we’re pressured to be slim, rather than strong. We think if we reach a size 10, we’ve made it, rather than concentrating on making our bodies fit for purpose. We may have admired the tight, muscle-packed physiques of the female athletes at last summer’s Olympics, but who really wanted to look like them? Perhaps it’s also because we’re too concerned with what men think of us, and we still associate femininity with looking waif-like and delicate.
The Spice Girls are a good example of this mind-set. There was Glam, Cute, Tarty, Feisty and…Sporty. Sporty was scarier than Scary. She never got to wear nice clothes, always had her hair scraped back and nobody, but nobody wanted to be her. She was easily the most talented of the group, and obviously the fittest, but that counted for nothing. Next to Victoria You-Could-Knock-Me-Over-With-A-Feather Beckham, she just looked butch.
The fact is that many women would rather be pretty than strong. It’s sad, but true. And in general, people in the West don’t worry too much about their physical fitness because they know they’re never going to have to keep the Home Front bright as a new pin, while simultaneously seeing off the Third Reich.
I realise that I really should do something about my ineffectual biceps and triceps, but since it’s unlikely I’ll ever find myself dangling off a cliff in Mordor, I can afford to put off the weight-training for…well, forever, probably.
One day, I expect the human race will become like those fat people in Wall-E, who have hardly any bone density, never mind muscles.
In fact, we’ll probably end up as giant, floating brains, having jettisoned our useless bodies once and for all. So, no need to worry then. In the meantime, can someone help me get the top off this jam jar?
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east