Making time for magazines: Women's Health

I totally understand the argument against magazines. Why pay for a brochure of advertisements, mixed in with printed content, when you can get plenty of interesting reading material online, for free, without the adverts, and without such an adverse effect on the environment? I'm right behind you; I weaned myself off of a serious magazine addiction this year, and these days I rarely buy a single one. 

In my previous life I'd buy magazines regularly, predominantly for the sake of buying a magazine, the smell and feel of crisp pages seemed not to trouble my conscience and I would merrily buy a magazine that I had little to no interest in, often for the free gift on offer (although that Clinque Chubby Stick is still going strong I must admit!) 

When I was recently asked whether I'd like to review a magazine publication for my blog, I had a little think about how well it sat with my ethics. I don't buy magazines any more because they're largely funded by advertising from huge companies that I don't support with my wallet, and because I can find interesting content online from blogs, online mags, free news sites etc. Print magazines also use precious paper, and printing methods can be harmful to the environment - not to mention the need to transport copies around the world in lorries. Besides all of that, I can't justify the expense.

However, I was somewhat relieved to see that Women's Health is available to download (here), eliminating the cost to the planet which otherwise makes me uncomfortable (I maintain that it's entirely unnecessary to purchase a print magazine or newspaper when they're all, generally speaking, available on your computer, tablet, or phone. What a waste of perfectly good trees!)

Downloaded magazines are usually much much more affordable than their print counterparts too, and so if, like me, you genuinely enjoy a magazine, even if you sometimes feel you shouldn't, then digital is the way to go. 

Here I'm basing my review on the print copy of the December 2014 edition of Women's Health, as this is what I've received, however, the content - which forms the focus of my review - is the same as that in the digital copy. 

As is always the case with mainstream magazines, the edition opens with 3.5 double spreads of solid advertising; and the advertising content is pretty heavy throughout, which I find off-putting - but I do appreciate that this is how magazines are funded. I just find it odd that I'm asked to spend money in order to have companies try to convince me to spend more - but that's just me being a grumpy anti-consumer! (I feel the same way about paying to get in to wedding/craft fairs for example!)

Women's Health is, unsurprisingly, the "sister" magazine to the longer running Men's Health magazine - he of the six-pack dominant front cover. I'm sure I can be forgiven for assuming that the contents of Men's Health magazine (I haven't ever read it) is predominantly "Why you should eat 11 raw eggs a day" and "how to last 7 hours in bed", as well as "What she's really thinking when you make eye contact in the mirror at the gym" and "GRRRR. MUSCLES." It is as a result of this (probably completely unfair) assumption, that I could be forgiven for worrying that Women's Health revolves around "How to survive on kale alone" as well as lots of those storyboard style diagrams of how to perform exercises that are super easy to do in your lunch break (and yet never seem to include "go for a walk", which is surely the most obvious suggestion?). 

When the December issue of Women's Health does plop through my letter box, and I see Frankie Bridge on the front cover, I'm slightly encouraged - she's a member of a girl band, currently taking part in a reality TV show - perhaps there won't be an article about suction cupping or lunging on the bus inside. Until, that is, I catch the caption beside her photograph; "Frankie - The 5-move plan behind this six-pack." Oh no, a magazine that's going to attempt to shame me in to regret at not having the body of a woman with endless access to personal trainers and Photoshop. 

What's perhaps worse, is that the interview itself is accompanied by some of those much-hated exercise diagrams. Let me say this: following this "5-move plan", even to the exact accuracy depicted in said-diagrams, will not, alone, make you "Flat Like Frankie". The idea that "doing this workout three times a week will enable you to carve your own rock-hard core." is obscene, and, I have to say, rather offensive.

It's not all bad news though, in fact, despite the above moaning, Women's Health is one magazine that I'd recommend to friends over most of the other offerings in the local newsagents. In it's entirety, Women's Health is much like any other women's lifestyle mag, with a subtle health focus. It's an accessible magazine to most women with a vague interest in living a healthy lifestyle, and it's probably not health focussed enough to appeal to the serious gym bunnies and macrobiotic babes. For a start, this is a magazine which argues the case for having a kebab on a night out, and that seeks to make you aware of the fact that "Lipstick could save your relationship". 

There are reviews of different headphones, and different brands of makeup, as well as a dedicated fashion section, and recipes for divine looking desserts. 

There's a separate section of the magazine dedicated to Love & Relationships, which certainly sets Women's Health apart from other health and fitness magazines - and yes, this month there was a flow diagram style quiz to advise you on which contraceptive method you might be best suited to - like a weird, grown up version of the "which A1 band member will you marry" quizzes of the good ol' Mizz days!

There is plenty of health related content of course, including advice on exercise and diet as well as, ahem, how to successfully have sex in the gym.

My verdict: if you're looking for a serious health and fitness magazine, then Women's Health isn't it. However, if you spend as much time in a pair of killer heels as you do in trainers, then you'll probably enjoy the fitness related undercurrent as well as the report on whether your likelihood of having an extra marital affair could be decided by genetic factors. 

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