Body transformation before-and-after images are a regular occurrence on Instagram and in health and fitness publications – even, on rare occasions, in this one.
For World Mental Health Day, dancer and Strictly Come Dancing judge Motsi Mabuse has taken part in the Dramatic Transformation campaign from Asics, which tries to shift the focus of the before-and-after photo away from aesthetic change. The “after” shot is taken at the end of 15 minutes and nine seconds of exercise, the amount of time it takes to generate a mental uplift – according to research overseen by Coach favourite Professor Brendon Stubbs (we spoke to him about running and mental health and the relationship between the two is truly astounding).
“The culture of ‘body transformation’ images, driven largely through social media, has conditioned society to view exercise through the lens of physical change,” says Gary Raucher of Asics EMEA. “Committing to this cause, ASICS EMEA will not post exercise transformation pictures that focus purely on aesthetic transformation on its channels. This also has the support of our 500-plus ASICS FrontRunner community with an audience of millions. The community is committed to only sharing images that reflect the uplifting feeling movement brings: the powerful mental and emotional impact of exercise on the whole self – body and mind.”
Mabuse has been joined in the campaign by A&E doctor and TV personality Dr Alex George, as well as former model and UN Women UK ambassador Jada Sezer.
“I have been on a real journey with exercise and the reasons why I do it,” says George. “When I was younger, I really used exercise as a weapon, to try and look thin, to look a certain way. When I went on Love Island a few years later, I was overtraining, and it wasn’t good for my mental health. Now, I’ve changed the way I view exercise and it’s really helped my mental health. I move for my mind, rather than to look a certain way.”
If that resonates with you, it may well be worth accessing resources through the charity Mind, which collaborated with Asics on the project. Earlier this year we spoke to Hayley Jarvis, head of physical activity at Mind, about how overexercising can be bad for your mental health, which you may also find useful.
“It’s great that Asics is challenging the use of body transformation pictures,” says Sezer, “because for me it’s never been about a physical transformation, more of a mental transformation. If I feel good mentally, then I’ve achieved my goal. ‘No pain, no gain’ has never resonated with me. It’s always been about how it makes me feel, not look, and I’m proud to be part of a campaign that represents this.”
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Jonathan Shannon has been the editor of the Coach website since 2016, developing a wide-ranging experience of health and fitness. Jonathan took up running while editing Coach and has run a sub-40min 10K and 1hr 28min half marathon. His next ambition is to complete a marathon. He’s an advocate of cycling to work and is Coach’s e-bike reviewer, and not just because he lives up a bit of a hill. He also reviews fitness trackers and other workout gear.