Apparently my wife stirred up controversy with a parent of one of her students at the performing arts high school she teaches at by suggesting that the student consider exercising so that she could “stay fit.” Not lose weight, not change her physical appearance, just to stay in shape, which as voice teachers we believe is important for posture and respiratory function. I have to admit I’m a little dumbfounded as to why in this day and age when the benefits of regular exercise are well understood, anyone would have an issue with a teacher/mentor recommending physical fitness as a necessary ingredient for success as a performer.
This is not a concept that my wife and I invented, in fact there is a great article on Backstage.com by Shaan Sharma emphasizing how important it is to take care of your body if you want a career as an actor. This does not mean that you have to be a size zero. You can be a size 18 if that makes you happy, but your body MUST be healthy. I know several beautiful women who are probably a size 12+ who run, workout, and go to fitness classes for the sake of taking care of themselves first and foremost. If they lose weight, great but that’s not necessarily the goal. These are beautiful curvy women who know that their body type will never be a size zero, but they realize that their long-term health REQUIRES them to pay attention to their body and to treat it well.
As an actor you are going to be expected to be on your feet rehearsing for hours at a time. You are going to be expected to dance and/or move. There is a strong likelihood you will need to climb things, move up and down off of the ground, and do other types of physical activity. If your body is not accustomed to moving, when you are asked to do so you are going to have difficulty.
If you are a performer or the parent of a performer you MUST accept the fact that fitness matters. You must separate fitness from physical beauty. If physical beauty comes along for the ride and it makes you happy, sweet! If it doesn’t, that’s ok. Working out can help prevent osteoporosis, cancer (specifically breast and ovarian in women), and type 2 diabetes. I don’t see how anyone can think that is a bad thing. Psychiatrists also say that it can be just as effective as Prozac for those who suffer from depression.
This post may seem directed towards women, but that is only the case because it was a female student who was involved in the situation with my wife. The reality is that men need to pay just as much attention to their physical fitness. So as the weather gets nicer, please consider getting up and moving. I’ll be right there with you. In fact, I should be receiving my new “fitness tracker” watch today so I can hopefully see how active or not active I actually am. I have a strong feeling I’m not going to like the answer. But hey, the advice above applies as much to me as everyone else and I am planning on taking my own advice and getting back to the gym.