Epic Fitness

Posh Fitness Culture for a Healthy Lifestyle

What exactly is a healthy lifestyle? If you dig into a certain corner of public health research, you are likely to come up with healthy patterns of eating, physical activity, sleep, and stress management as the answer. But Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, author of Fit Nation, has a different answer for you. Fitness culture defines a healthy lifestyle as a posh pattern for lives that few people can lead, but many can wish for.

She describes the how fitness culture took America’s obsession with healthy exercise and shaped it into an aspirational lifestyle:

“As physical activity became elevated to a virtuous form of conspicuous consumption, what had been a ‘fitness craze’ had evolved into a newly all-encompassing ‘lifestyle,’ one embraced by the relatively affluent few and imposed on many others.”

If this fitness culture really were a blueprint for good health (we doubt it), then it might also be a template for health disparities. How smart is it, really, to define good health as a aspirational lifestyle?

 Bringing Lived Experience to the History of Fitness Culture

Petrzela is a history professor at the New School who describes herself as a scholar, writer, teacher, and activist. She seems to understand how to create a buzz. Also, some of her life experiences relate directly to this book project. She was a fitness instructor at Equinox and a brand ambassador for Lululemon. In fact, large posters of her pregnant body “swathed in expensive stretchy fabric” once appeared on Lululemon’s store walls.

A Study of Twisted Virtues

Ultimately, we take this history to be a study of twisted virtues. Public health scholars and even some politicians want to get us moving. American enterprise steps in. So over time, we learn that a healthy lifestyle has become something for the rich and famous to model for us.

Should this be a surprise in a place where access to good healthcare is defined by wealth and social status?

Click here, here, and here to read more about Fit Nation.

Epic Fitness, photograph by Kody and Kyler McCormick, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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January 14, 2023

One Response to “Posh Fitness Culture for a Healthy Lifestyle”

  1. January 27, 2023 at 10:37 am, Elliott Brown said:

    very informative post keep sharing.