The Gym

Shaming in the Fitness Culture

A fitness culture is spreading around the world that has great potential to promote better health and well-being. But even a small element of shaming can undermine all of that.

Look at fashion, look at daily routines everywhere, and the fitness culture is impossible to miss. While much of life has become a sedentary ritual of enslavement to glowing rectangles, we feel a constant push in the opposite direction. Hit the gym. Go for a run. Walk while you talk with your colleagues.

Very good reasons are motivating this push for more physical activity. But a new publication in the Journal of Health Psychology also points to the potential harm of weight bias in the fitness culture of frequent exercisers. In a qualitative study of frequent exercisers in the UK, Stuart Flint and Sophie Reale readily found attitudes toward people with obesity that were “overt, demeaning, and condescending.”

Of all the themes that Flint and Reale found in their research, the most disturbing theme is an embrace of bullying. Frequent exercisers told the researchers that “calling someone fat isn’t bullying them” and that “bullying fatties might stop them eating so much.”

Flint and Reale conclude that:

These findings should be considered in efforts to intervene at all levels, to prevent public health campaigns and programmes leading to adverse effects in fostering stigmatising attitudes and beliefs about obesity.

These attitudes are a small part of the fitness movement with potential to destroy the whole of it.

Click here for the study and here for more on the evolution of fitness culture from Daniel Kunitz, author of a new book on the subject, Lift.

The Gym, photograph © Astrid Westvang / flickr

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July 17, 2016

3 Responses to “Shaming in the Fitness Culture”

  1. July 17, 2016 at 11:44 am, Stephen Phillips said:

    Regarding Shaming in the Fitness Culture

    Judgement and Ignorance is as old as Mankind

    Here is my judgment :

    Why do you think we call them dumbbells ?
    Stephen Phillips

  2. July 20, 2016 at 10:54 am, Allen Browne said:

    Put a 150 lb vest on one of the instructors and see how far/fast they go.

    Activity is good but has to fit the person and their capabilities. The “Presidential Physical Fitness Award” is not for everyone, but being healthy is possible for everyone.

  3. July 21, 2016 at 11:03 pm, Doris said:

    Exercise is good for health. Previously I was too lazy to exercise. but since my friend introduced me to a fitness course. I have been extremely excited and decided to stick with it long time ha ha. Now my body is slim and stronger. Love fitness.