Fit Nation: The Gains and Pains of America’s Exercise Obsession

Univ. of Chicago. Dec. 2022. 432p. ISBN 9780226651101. $29. HEALTH
Petrzela (history, the New School; Classroom Wars) is a certified fitness instructor whose book takes a compassionate yet critical look at the history of America’s obsession with fitness. She analyzes the widely accepted, underlying ideas of a fit nation—those connections between mind and body, and people’s right to exercise. She focuses on her analysis in order to draw attention to the flaws in a system that celebrates fitness “gains” (a word that may be as much about weight lost as it is about strength gained) when fitness is situated as a responsibility but one that not everyone has access to. American culture privileges fitness yet obtaining it requires a degree of privilege.
VERDICT A highly recommended book that is designed to strengthen readers’ activist muscles so that they can create more inclusive, accessible spaces for exercise, along with fewer metrics that immediately exclude certain bodies from social definitions of health.
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