Beauty, Health and Fitness: The Evolutionary Benefit of Looking Good
When I was in college, I took a philosophy course in aesthetics – the nature of beauty. Now it is a fact that the perception of beauty is highly subjective. That is, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But it is obvious that human beings have a built-in aesthetic sense, something that is natural to all of us. One important reason for this ability is choice of mates. Evolution has programmed humans to be attracted to potential sexual partner who have the kind of symmetry and proportion that tends to denote health and fitness, and therefore somebody whom you would want to contribute their genes to future offspring.
We know that evolution works, in large part, on the basis of natural selection. But sexual selection can lead to much more rapid changes in genetics. A great example is the peacock’s tail. There is no physical advantage to the peacock in sporting such exaggerated tail feathers. What the tail is for is attracting the attention of peahens. When it comes to sexual selection, some attribute instinctively attracts the female and then this trait is passed on and amplified in the offspring. The same thing happens over generations and become a stronger and stronger factor. So, what was a flamboyant tail at one point gradually becomes more and more spectacular.
Evolutionary biologists believe that physical beauty has played an important part in mate selection in human beings. Beauty of the body, but of the face as well. Actually, recognizing individual faces is a very complex process. We have special cells in the brain just for that purpose. You dog or cat may love you but can’t recognize your face. There are people who are or become “face blind” and can see a fact but can’t do the processing it takes to recognize who the face belongs to.
But human can not only recognize faces but respond to them in terms of their beauty. Beauty is a powerful force in human society. Beautiful people are treated differently than others and gain a number of advantages. It is said that beauty in a woman is like wealth in a man. The movies, TV and advertising are full of beautiful people because beauty makes people pay attention and help to persuade.
When it comes to muscle competitors, having an aesthetic body is extremely important, but facial beauty is important as well. From Steve Reeves and Rachel McLish on, top champions have usually had beautiful faces as well as great physiques. There have been many outstanding women in the industry who have also been world-class beauties, as gorgeous as any movie star or top model. Certainly, the beauty of Rachel McLish helped to kick-start acceptance of bodybuilding for women from the beginning. And, looking at my photo files, I can see how really beautiful women in bodybuilding like Sherilyn Godreau, Anja Langer, Beate Draebing and Lenda Murray are – to name just a few.
Of course, with no many other categories like fit bikini, fitness and figure now part of muscle competition, there are now many hundreds of women who qualify as extremely beautiful. The problem at this point, is that these women are largely unrecognized by the “mainstream.” In an age in which so many are sedentary and obese, and yet where gyms and fitness and diet programs are proliferating, they need to be promoted and celebrated and to become role models to teach, motivate and inspire women to look and feel better and to become as fit and fabulous as possible.