Fixing women's fitness: Strength training for a healthier body image

Story highlights

  • Women don't need to make aesthetic goals the aim of their fitness routines, Dana Santas writes
  • Athletic goals and strength training can provide a boost to body image, she says
Dana Santas is the creator of Radius Yoga Conditioning, a yoga style designed to help athletes move, breathe and focus better. She's the yoga trainer for the Atlanta Braves, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay Lightning, Orlando Magic and dozens of pros in the National Football League, National Hockey League, National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.

(CNN)Look at the fitness section of any magazine rack and you'll find men's publications splashed with words like "get more" and "gain" and "build," while women's magazines feature directives like "fix" and "slim" and "lose" and "tone." Notice the difference?

My interpretation is that, if I don't look like the ultra-thin or impossibly curvy Photoshopped cover model, I am somehow broken, overweight or flabby -- requiring "fixing." This may seem extreme, but countless studies point to the media's impact on body image for women.
In 2008, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Michigan analyzed 77 previous studies. They found that exposure to this type of media significantly increases women's dissatisfaction with their bodies and their likelihood of developing unhealthy behaviors, like eating disorders.
    Thankfully, increasing awareness of the media's influence on women has prompted positive campaigns like Always' #LikeAGirl. The success of female athletes like Ronda Rousey and Serena Williams is helping project another view of health and beauty, driven by athletic performance rather than aesthetic goals.
    Boston-based strength and conditioning coach Tony Gentilcore, who works with clients of both sexes, from pro-athletes to stay-at-home parents, is a big proponent of shifting women's fitness motivation away from appearance. "Rather than having my female clients focus on media-fed goals like losing 10 pounds or wearing a sleeveless dress, I try to get them to buy into more of the performance side of things, particularly from a strength-training perspective," he says.
    Gentilcore wants women to aspire to strength goals because fee