Fitness and Consumerism in Later Life

  • Paul Higgs
  • Chris Gilleard
Part of the Global Culture and Sport Series book series (GCS)


While physical exercise has conventionally been associated with masculinity and youth, changes over the last half century have seen exercise become commoditised and incorporated into the ungendered discourses of ‘active ageing’ (Walker, 2008). Although physical exercise has long been part of the care and cultivation of the self (Foucault, 1986), its practices and meanings have changed over time. In contemporary society, exercise has become a more ‘individualised’, ‘fashioned’ aspect of lifestyle, a set of embodied practices through which social distinction is created and interpreted beyond the barriers of age and gender. Unlike the individualistic and gendered practices associated with cosmetics, fashion and hairstyle, however, physical exercise embodies public virtue as well as the agentic nature of social citizenship (Lupton, 1995). Its role as a public good has become central to public health campaigns promoting the message that health and fitness are civic virtues to be cultivated at all ages and among all groups, a necessary part of the war against ‘indolence’ represented by the ‘obesity epidemic’ and the diseases of affluence (Campos, 2004). This combination of consumerism and the individualisation of citizenship have contributed to the transformation of exercise and fitness beyond the boundaries of age.


Physical Activity Civic Virtue Public Health Campaign Master Athlete Consumer Society 
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© Paul Higgs and Chris Gilleard 2015

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  • Paul Higgs
  • Chris Gilleard

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