Letters: building muscle is not just for superstars | Women’s health

In Yvonne Roberts’s criticism of Nicole Kidman for keeping fit and being proud of it, she mentions that “exercise can be enjoyable” (“Fab abs, Nicole. But this frantic effort to look half your age is frankly a bit demeaning”, Comment) . This is critical. I am a year older than Kidman and I swim three times a week, go to Pilates, cycle into town, walk the dog and eat pretty healthily. I still don’t look like Kidman and I can’t act, but I love the activity, feeling fit and strong and the mental benefits that come with it. It is not trying to “turn the clock back” but living my life in good shape, enjoying my body and respecting it. With luck, it will also reduce some of the health issues of old age, but if not I’ll still have had a good time.
Debo Adams
Sudbury, Suffolk

Nicole Kidman’s body is abnormal and has been acquired only because she has money, power, stylists and a lot of time. Any magazine cover heralding this as “perfect’ is lying to the public and its readership.

I’m in my 50s and I wouldn’t mind looking like I did 20 (or even 10) years ago. But how can I look my daughters – who I remind constantly to love themselves as they are and not to conform to imprisoning stereotypes – in the face if I resort to surgery, surgery and more surgery?

Kidman is a great actor and highly intelligent. This magazine cover though; it’s a parallel universe. women age. Deal with it.
Donna White
Barnet, London

I’m in a Facebook group with around 60 women in their 50s from all over the world, only two of whom I’ve ever met. We post about our self-defined fitness sessions: a long dog walk, a Pilates class, a CrossFit session. Each of us is aiming to get to 222 sessions by year end. Last year it was 221 and the year before 220; you get the picture. It’s sisterly and supportive, non-judgmental, celebratory. Lots of us do weights and resistance exercise; none of us looks like Nicole Kidman. But there is muscle definition, there are abs, quads and biceps and most of all there are glowy, smiley, red-faced selfies. I’m pretty unlikely to be in the group in 2050 with a 250 session target, but if I am it will probably have something to do with the proven benefits of weightbearing exercise for older women.

This isn’t “frantic self-improvement” but sensible future-proofing; a cheap set of dumbbells and a consistent 3 x 30-minute sessions a week at home. It stabilizes our joints, helps resist the impacts of decreasing bone density and means we can keep putting one foot in front of the other for longer. And yeah, I like that it looks good and it’s true that I look at my shoulders when I’m wearing a sleeveless top. Building muscle is for us all, not just superstars.
Alison Clark

Gardens a luxury for renters

James Wong asks: “Why, even as a nation of gardeners, do we struggle to get people involved in gardening?” (“Is it time to ditch the term ‘gardening’?”, Magazine). I’d suggest it’s because so few young people are homeowners and so many are renting. When renting, you can be booted out of your home for no reason with a Section 21 notice, so why bother cultivating the back garden and spending hundreds on bulbs, shrubs and little trees when you could lose it all at the thwack of a letter on the doormat? Why invest in trowels, gardening gloves, bags of compost or woodchip and endless weekend afternoons of your time on something so precarious?

Worse, landlords may have their own ideas about what may be done with their gardens. When I was renting, I recall tidying up the garden and planting a few cheap berry bushes. The following weekend, he rolled up with some workmen and dumped a load of building materials over them. I pretty much gave up after that.

Please remember that gardening, decorating, home improvements or DIY are mostly off limits to Generation Rent and will be until we have long-overdue reform of the rental sector.
Gavin Holmes

Refugees and red tape

Kenan Malik is right (“There are lies, damn lies and then there is Home Office propaganda”, Comment). The Home Office is full of contradictory and impossible advice. Afghans “facing serious risk” in Afghanistan are advised that they “need to apply for a visa to come to the UK [but] there is no Visa Application Center (VAC) operating in Afghanistan”. What to do? You “will normally have to submit your biometric information (fingerprints and photographs) in a VAC in a third country to complete your application”. So you must scramble with your children to a neighboring country and then find a VAC. If you lose heart, of course, and decide to make your own way here, you will end up in Rwanda.
Bob Mouncer

Factory farming harms water

While the reduction in the number of farm inspections certainly needs to be reversed (“Farmers free to pollute our rivers ‘because Truss slashed red tape’”, News), the fundamental reason why agriculture is now the number one cause of water pollution is that today’s industrial-scale intensive farms keep huge numbers of animals on areas of land that are far too small to absorb the animals’ waste products.

An end to factory farming and the reduction in the number of animals farmed would help with water pollution, climate change (partly caused by methane emissions from cattle) and the worrying growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (partly caused by the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms). It would also reduce the scale of the misery, frustration and sometimes chronic pain experienced by millions of farmed animals today.
Iain Greendirector, Animal Aid, Tonbridge, Kent

Forget Mars. Think of Earth

The huge sum wasted aiming to send astronauts to Mars could instead tackle the climate emergency by funding vast amounts of clean energy and insulation (“Nasa’s venture into deep space will cost the US $93bn. It will be worth every cent”, Editorial). Our appreciation of the fragility of our unique planet would be enhanced much more by watching programs such as David Attenborough’s or Climate Change: Ade on the Frontline. A small fraction of $93bn could fund loads of TV ads to raise funds for preserving the natural world.
Root Team
London N4

Sweet surrender

Every August I grit my teeth and wait for the annual moment of frustration and jealousy. And, yes, there it is – Nigel Slater’s column proclaiming that he has more fresh figs than he knows what to do with (Food and Drink, Magazine). Please Nigel, have pity! On the other hand, as we wade through swaths of wild garlic in the spring, we still happily recall the long-ago recipe where he described it as “very rare”.
Sarah Williamson

Committed, caring college

The decision to benchmark our performance as an employer through Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index was not informed by “a climate of fear”, as implied in a recent letter, but by a strong commitment to offer a safe and supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bi and trans+ members of staff. Our commitment to provide an inclusive environment has been recognized by Stonewall with a silver award and we’ve been ranked as one of the country’s leading employers for LGBTQ+ staff.

Our involvement in the Stonewall scheme is contingent on the results it brings in improving diversity and inclusion in our workplace, not the threat of public controversy. Stonewall does not have power of influence over our policy stance. This is established through a member-led process, entirely separate from our employment function.

The polarised debate on trans rights might have often prevented balanced discussion but it has not stopped the College from advocating for trans and gender diverse people’s right to mental healthcare.

The publication of our position statement from 2018 is a prime example of the integrity of our policy work, making it abundantly clear that gender dysphoria is not a mental disorder and should have never been classified as one. At the same time, we make the case for continuing to support psychiatrists in their role to fully explore their patients’ gender identity, in a non-judgmental, supportive and ethical manner.

To deliver on this, we need to build the evidence base that will enable young people, their families, carers and the clinicians supporting them to make more informed decisions about the right care for them.

The interim Cass review recommendations echo our own calls for more research and the need for a cautious but compassionate approach to the care of children and young people, in the meanwhile. We will be offering our full support to the review to make sure that the final recommendations can help services learn from past mistakes and that children and young people with gender dysphoria can access good mental healthcare, when they need to.

Dr Adrian Jamespresident of the Royal College of Psychiatrists

London E1