Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, Fit Nation: The Gains and Pains of America’s Exercise Obsession

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Fit Nation represents the latest in a series of excellent works on the political and social impact of health and fitness in American life. Natalia Mehlman Petrzela’s work studies the evolution of American health from the late 1800s to the present day and, in doing so, helps to provide endpoints for some of the histories previously studied by historians. On a surface level, Petrzela’s argument is straightforward—the pressure of exercising and/or keeping fit have slowly but perceptibly permeated multiple facets of American life. This includes both public institutions, as evidenced by the involvement of the US Government, countless physicians, schools, universities, prisons and other actors. The core tenet of the book is that ‘fitness has become a socially acceptable form of conspicuous consumption in a society that celebrates the pursuit of health as practically holy’. Where Petrzela’s book is strongest is in its ability to show how malleable, and appealing, physical fitness was in American discourses during this period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-2
Number of pages2
JournalSocial History of Medicine
Publication statusPublished online - 27 Jul 2023


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