The Cultural Location of Fitness Gyms

Part of the Consumption and Public Life book series (CUCO)


As a dedicated, closed space for working on the body, the gym has a long history, stretching all the way back to the gymnasium of the Greeks and the palaestra of the Romans. The line of continuity with such millenarian tradition was still somewhat strong in the first half of the twentieth century with the diffusion of physical culture and the development of body-building gyms devoted to muscular growth, prevalently frequented by men often tied by strong sub-cultural relations. However, since the 1970s there has been a marked increase in the number of exercise premises presenting themselves in a new guise. They have addressed an increasingly large, mixed public. They have shifted the notion of the gym from a sub-cultural passion to a mass leisure activity, intertwined with pop culture. They have articulated health promotion in an increasingly commercial, individualistic manner. As is apparent, today the term “gym” is associated with that of “fitness” and even increasingly replaced by neologisms like “fitness centre” or “fitness club” which, as some clients and trainers claim, better convey the specific mission of this institution. To be sure, gyms reserved solely for typically masculine competitive activities – such as body building, weightlifting, boxing or the martial arts – still exist, but they are increasingly marginal with respect to the large number of premises that find a minimum common denominator in the idea of fitness.


Body Building Cultural Location Consumer Culture Disciplinary Technique Body Builder 
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Copyright information

© Roberta Sassatelli 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MilanItaly

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