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Lesbian fitness insight: Go for health, not thinness

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Lesbian fitness insight: Go for health, not thinness

Here’s some lesbian fitness insight: lesbians and bisexual women can get fitter if they focus on having better health behavior rather than just getting thin.

A landmark study by the University of Missouri noted that the Healthy Weight in Lesbian and Bisexual Women (HWLB) program has been able to help a full 95 percent of 250 participants ages 40 and older across 10 cities get fitter by focusing on health and not thinness.

Launched in 2012, the 12- to 16-week HWLB program was instituted by the Office on Women’s Health, which is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Research on lesbian fitness

The program was created in response to a 2011 report on the health of LGBT Americans. In that earlier report, it was noted that lesbians and bisexual women were at a greater risk of obesity as compared to their heterosexual counterparts.

Though researchers back then were unable to determine why, current theories cited a number of factors like “an association with the impact of minority stress, more positive body images, different exercise patterns, and childhood sexual abuse.”

Other studies indicate that lesbian women tend to be more satisfied with their bodies as compared to heterosexual women.

“There’s a culture within the community that has acceptance of a larger body size, and this seems to also occur with better body image and self-esteem,” Dr. Jane McElroy, a professor of family and community medicine at the University of Missouri and lead author on the new study.

As such, lesbian and bisexual women need to address “unique concerns” in relation to their weight.

“The whole point of this study was not to look at changing body size but to work on a healthy weight,” said McElroy.

Lesbian fitness and health needs

McElroy further said, “A lot of women are OK with their body sizes. They don’t really feel like they need to be look like they did when they were 16; they just want to be healthy at the weight they are.”

The HWLB program works by not targeting measurement on the Body Mass Index (BMI). Rather, it gets lesbian and bisexual women to focus on individual cardiovascular and metabolic health.

As a result, almost 60 percent of participants in the HWLB program participants spent more than 20 minutes per week being physically active while 58 percent of them were able to meet three or more of their health objectives.

Because the programs were also run in partnership with LGBT community organizations, this helped women feel comfortable participating.

“Our messaging and our interventions happened in places that were safe for the women,” McElroy said.

Likewise, Susan F. Wood, PhD, Executive Director of the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health and principal investigator for one of the programs said: “The collaborations between researchers and community organizations were an integral component of these studies.”

How to attain lesbian fitness via health

McElroy said that participants’ feelings about the results could be summarized as: “I don’t want to get on the scale and be measured because my weight is not what’s important to me– it’s that I feel healthy.”

“We are hopeful that these results will motivate other communities to develop tailored interventions to support lesbian and bisexual women achieving the active healthy lives they desire,” she added.

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