The contemporary world of gyms is an extremely complex and varied reality which is attracting increasing critical interest from many quarters as it is linked with consumer capitalism and how neo-liberal logic puts bodies at work in urban spaces (Sassatelli 2015). The creation of specialised, typically commercial, spaces defined by the possibility of ‘taking care of the body’ strengthens the impression that modern urban living otherwise is and must be unhealthy, unnatural and harmful to the body. As a highly specialised and separated institution, the fitness gym reinforces the functionalised structure of consumer capitalist urban living and its emphasis on individualized (self) control of conducts furthering individualization and de-politicization of active leisure. Its diffusion, for example, has probably rendered less urgent the provision of parks, outdoor exercise tracks, cycling paths, and other public gymnastic solutions, which may incidentally be less prone to commercialisation, more universally available and more incisive in changing urban living. It has certainly had the effect of globally reinforcing the neo-liberal, middle-class idea that health and wellbeing matters are matters of individual will and consumerism (Maguire Smith 2007; Sassatelli 2010; Spielvogel 2003) Still, fitness gyms and health centres receive a general token of approval by mainstream pop and consumer culture as a solution to urban sedentary and functionalized patters of living . If we take just a little step back in history, we can say that it is since the late 1970s that there has been a considerable growth in commercial recreational centres which have presented themselves in a new way: gyms have been closely associated with the notion of ‘fitness’, and in professional texts old labels have been replaced by neologisms such as ‘fitness centres’ and ‘fitness clubs’, and more recently ‘health centres’ or ‘wellness clubs’. These neologisms come with the extra bonus of luxury and sociability. They also divert attention from the competitive, harsh and often very masculine world which was originally associated with the term ‘gymnasium’ and activate a semantics gravitating towards the area of ‘leisured healthism’. While female pop icons (from Jane Fonda’s aerobics to Madonna’s ‘Candy Fitness’, a franchised global brand) often play important roles, this is not just a female province. Commercial gyms match the current governmental public campaigns for healthy lifestule and longevity for the entire population in what has recently be termed “mindful fitness” (Markula 2011). Fitness in such a guise, may be seen as a rather apparently all-inclusive territory where functionlised, rationalized and individualized enjoyment must be displayed while working towards a normalized healthy-looking, young and efficient embodied self. Keeping an eye on the politics of the body and exercise through ethnographic data (Molnar and Purdy 2016; Sassatelli 2012a), in this chapter I shall consider the spatiality of commercial fitness gyms and their productive effects on embodied selves.

R. Sassatelli (2017). Exercise and Fitness Spaces. London : Routledge.

Exercise and Fitness Spaces

R. Sassatelli
2017

Abstract

The contemporary world of gyms is an extremely complex and varied reality which is attracting increasing critical interest from many quarters as it is linked with consumer capitalism and how neo-liberal logic puts bodies at work in urban spaces (Sassatelli 2015). The creation of specialised, typically commercial, spaces defined by the possibility of ‘taking care of the body’ strengthens the impression that modern urban living otherwise is and must be unhealthy, unnatural and harmful to the body. As a highly specialised and separated institution, the fitness gym reinforces the functionalised structure of consumer capitalist urban living and its emphasis on individualized (self) control of conducts furthering individualization and de-politicization of active leisure. Its diffusion, for example, has probably rendered less urgent the provision of parks, outdoor exercise tracks, cycling paths, and other public gymnastic solutions, which may incidentally be less prone to commercialisation, more universally available and more incisive in changing urban living. It has certainly had the effect of globally reinforcing the neo-liberal, middle-class idea that health and wellbeing matters are matters of individual will and consumerism (Maguire Smith 2007; Sassatelli 2010; Spielvogel 2003) Still, fitness gyms and health centres receive a general token of approval by mainstream pop and consumer culture as a solution to urban sedentary and functionalized patters of living . If we take just a little step back in history, we can say that it is since the late 1970s that there has been a considerable growth in commercial recreational centres which have presented themselves in a new way: gyms have been closely associated with the notion of ‘fitness’, and in professional texts old labels have been replaced by neologisms such as ‘fitness centres’ and ‘fitness clubs’, and more recently ‘health centres’ or ‘wellness clubs’. These neologisms come with the extra bonus of luxury and sociability. They also divert attention from the competitive, harsh and often very masculine world which was originally associated with the term ‘gymnasium’ and activate a semantics gravitating towards the area of ‘leisured healthism’. While female pop icons (from Jane Fonda’s aerobics to Madonna’s ‘Candy Fitness’, a franchised global brand) often play important roles, this is not just a female province. Commercial gyms match the current governmental public campaigns for healthy lifestule and longevity for the entire population in what has recently be termed “mindful fitness” (Markula 2011). Fitness in such a guise, may be seen as a rather apparently all-inclusive territory where functionlised, rationalized and individualized enjoyment must be displayed while working towards a normalized healthy-looking, young and efficient embodied self. Keeping an eye on the politics of the body and exercise through ethnographic data (Molnar and Purdy 2016; Sassatelli 2012a), in this chapter I shall consider the spatiality of commercial fitness gyms and their productive effects on embodied selves.
2017
Routledge Handbook of Physical Cultural Studies
378
388
R. Sassatelli (2017). Exercise and Fitness Spaces. London : Routledge.
R. Sassatelli
File in questo prodotto:
Eventuali allegati, non sono esposti

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/835533
 Attenzione

Attenzione! I dati visualizzati non sono stati sottoposti a validazione da parte dell'ateneo

Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus 4
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? 2
social impact