Sex Roles

, Volume 54, Issue 9, pp 707–716

Being Fit and Looking Healthy: Young Women’s and Men’s Constructions of Health and Fitness

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11199-006-9036-9

Cite this article as:
Wright, J., O’Flynn, G. & Macdonald, D. Sex Roles (2006) 54: 707. doi:10.1007/s11199-006-9036-9


We drew on Foucault's notion of ‘practices of the self’ to examine how young people take up, negotiate, and resist the imperatives of a public health discourse concerned with the relationships between health, fitness, and the body. We did this through a discussion of the ways young women and men talk about their own and others' bodies, in the context of a number of in-depth interviews conducted for the Life Activity Project, a study of the place and meaning of physical activity in young people's lives, funded by an Australian Research Council Grant. We found that the young women and men in the study engaged the health/fitness discourse very differently: for the young men, health conflated with fitness as an embodied capacity to do physical work; and for the young women, health was a much more difficult and complex project associated with managing and monitoring practices associated with eating and exercise to maintain an ‘appropriate’ body shape.


HealthFitnessMeaningsYoung menYoung womenPost-structuralSelf-constitutionFoucault

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan Wright
    • 1
  • Gabrielle O’Flynn
    • 2
  • Doune Macdonald
    • 3
  1. 1.Faculty of EducationUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  2. 2.School of Human Movement StudiesCharles Sturt UniversityBathurstAustralia
  3. 3.School of Human Movement StudiesUniversity of QueenslandSt Lucia BrisbaneAustralia