From exercise to “exertainment”: Body techniques and body philosophies within a differentiated fitness culture

Jesper Andreasson
Linnaeus University
Thomas Johansson
University of Gothenburg

Jesper Andreasson (top) and Thomas Johansson.


This study focuses on two highly influential body techniques used in contemporary gym and fitness culture, namely bodybuilding and group fitness activities. The paper presents detailed self-portraits of two highly esteemed and well-known individuals representing each of these spheres of exercise. Both body techniques have their roots in physical culture. However, whereas bodybuilding goes back to the historical roots of European physical culture developed during the 19th century, Les Mills group fitness activities are a more recent phenomenon, with roots in aerobics and in the fitness culture developed during the 1960s. The case stories are read as both portraits of individuals and histories of two different forms of body techniques and philosophies of the body, and the analysis suggests that the narratives are to be understood in relation to historical changes in how society is organised and what this implies in terms of national and global demands for specific bodies.

Click here to read this peer reviewed article in Scandinavian Sport Studies Forum, Vol. 6 2015

About the Authors

JESPER ANDREASSON is Associate Professor of sport science at Linnaeus University and has a PhD in Sociology. He has written mainly in the fields of gender studies and the sociology of sport. Andreasson’s doctoral dissertation, The Gender of Sports from 2007 (Swedish), focuses on how gender, the body and sexuality are constructed within Swedish team sports. His more recent work is found within the field of gym and fitness cultures, gender, bodybuilding and doping. He has a qualitative and ethnographic approach in his research and has published a number of scientific articles within these fields, and recently the book The Global Gym. Gender, Health and Pedagogies (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, with Thomas Johansson). He is program co-ordinator for a 180 credits candidate program within sport science and teaches at graduate and postgraduate levels, mainly in research methods and social science theory.

THOMAS JOHANSSON is Professor of Education at the Department of Education, Communication and Learning, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. He has written extensively in the field of gender studies, the sociology of the family, and youth research. His recent books include The Transformation of Sexuality (Ashgate 2007) and Young Migrants (Palgrave 2011, with Katrine Fangen and Nils Hammarén). Johansson has published articles on gender, ethnicity, and identity in journals such as Men and MasculinitiesEthnicityActa SociologicaJournal of Family CommunicationYoungJournal of Men’s Studies, and Journal of Youth Studies.

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