Just a couple of weeks ago Britain appointed its first-ever "mental health tsar": 34-year-old self-proclaimed feminist and Cosmopolitan columnist Natasha Devon.
And here's Devon'svery first on-the-job manifesto: A call to curtail teen-age boys' access to working out in gyms.
To be fair, Devon, who would bar youths under age 16 from trying out the barbells and weight machines unless accompanied by a "supervising adult," does point out some possible hazards: getting hooked–presumably by unscrupulous older fitness fanatics–on useless energy drinks and protein "supplements" or even illegal steroids.
But Devon's main issue with gyms is that they encourage voys to be…too masculine.
It's a testosterone-fuelled space where teenage boys can find older men who will instruct and induct them into the ways of fitness culture. It's little wonder they're seeking gym memberships in their droves….
Secondly, there's the potential for distorted body image. Over the past decade, ie since gyms went mainstream, male hospitalisations for eating disorders have risen by 70 per cent, according to excellent charity Men Gets Eating Disorders Too. This is not, I believe, a coincidence. Obsession with being muscular is not the same as wanting to be healthy and whilst gyms can undoubtedly assist men with the latter, they can just as easily fuel the former.
We can't have young men developing muscles!
Instead, Devon wants schools to increase their (presumably co-ed) exercise programs:
I'd like to see schools introduce a range of half-hour activities to start their day with an energy-boost. I'd like to see local councils recognise the importance of and provide funding for sports clubs. Most of all, though, I'd love to see us incorporate exercise as a holistic element of children's lifestyles, something not confined purely to gyms, or prescribed as a punishment to the overweight, but as an essential component for mental and physical wellbeing for everyone, the primary benefit of which is keeping our insides healthy. After all, health and fitness is so much more than a six-pack.
Like Achilles racing the tortoise in Zeno's Paradox (there's a fitness simile!), the U.S. is always a little behind Britain on the road to crazy. But maybe we'll eventually get our own "mental health czar" so we can have our very own rules preventing young boys from trying to make their bodies stronger.