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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Sport and fitness sciences, Social topics

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Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health


While the identification of risks associated with sedentary lifestyles provided a strong foundation for what we understand by ‘fitness’ today, research across the social sciences and humanities has been rather more ambivalent about the term. One important cause for concern here is the cultural proximity of ‘fitness’ to consumer culture by means of the ‘fitness industry’. It has been shown, for example, that the pursuit of fitness has become increasingly, if not exclusively, a matter of attending to the body as a marker of social status: something to be consumed for; something to be consumed by others. In this paper, findings from a study on the meaning of fitness are presented in order to explore how consigning fitness to consumption activity can also overlook complex self-understandings that accrue on the basis of ongoing activity and increased experience. Specifically, findings from in-depth semi-structured interviews with 12 experienced gym-goers indicate the importance of a more generalised understanding of fitness (than has been explored in previous research), one that focuses more on the alignment of intention and action in everyday life situations than on the alignment of bodies with normative physical ideals. The paper concludes by acknowledging that, while consumption activity has become a critical component within the cultural imagery of fitness, there is a great deal of nuance yet to be drawn out when examining the relationship between biopolitical discourse and everyday practice in this context.



Technological University Dublin

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License