Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

  • Jesper Andreasson
  • Thomas Johansson
Part of the Global Culture and Sport Series book series (GCS)


In this chapter, we will describe the historical development of the modern gym and fitness culture and present an analytically developed approach to understanding the emergence of this multi-billion-dollar phenomenon in contemporary society. In order to understand certain of the trends and tendencies in fitness, the chapter will focus on a few – but significant – parts of and personalities in the history of the gym and fitness culture. For example, the basic system of ideas on which the contemporary fitness culture is founded is classical bodybuilding. The culture has changed, however, and new ways of approaching the whole field have emerged. Further, this cultural transformation has meant that many of the ideals hailed in this context also have changed — for example, perceptions of the body and gender. In order to understand some of the developments in the contemporary gym and fitness culture, we argue that it is necessary to reconnect to and analyse certain early developments in physical culture. Our main focus is centred on the overall transformation from a male-connoted muscle culture to a more gender-neutral conception of exercise, diet, lifestyle, and the idea of fitness. When using the term gender-neutral, we are referring to how women have gradually come to be included in the spaces of the gym and fitness culture, striving for a common body ideal with men (the hard body), and using body techniques previously used exclusively by men. We are also interested, however, in the development from a collective and often national culture into a more individualized form of exercise and body maintenance.


Female Body Weight Training Health Club Contemporary Perspective Physical Culture 
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Copyright information

© Jesper Andreasson and Thomas Johansson 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jesper Andreasson
    • 1
  • Thomas Johansson
    • 2
  1. 1.Linnaeus UniversitySweden
  2. 2.University of GothenburgSweden

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