Towards a geography of fitness: an ethnographic case study of the gym in British bodybuilding culture
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During recent years, research in health geography has engaged with peoples' health as well as diseases, an interest reflected by therapeutic geographies and geographies of public health. At the same time, studies have focused on micro-contexts such as the body, reflected in geographies of diseased and disadvantaged bodies. However, little research has combined elements of the two approaches and engaged in research on active healthy bodies and fitness. Equally the sub-discipline of sports geography provides little insight into fitness activities because this research has tended to focus on elite sports, their fans and facilities. Given these contexts, a detailed case study is presented to demonstrate the potential for geographical research on fitness. Through an observational study of a specialist gym facility, the study investigates how bodybuilding culture and place are co-produced. Indeed, the gym provides a narrative resource and a crucial setting for individual body projects and collective body culture which involve social conflicts, cohesions and hierarchies, illegal and potentially health harming activities, as well as personal comfort and therapeutic attachments. It is argued that beyond this case study, many activities crosscut health maintenance, or conversely risks to health, and the enjoyment of sports and fitness. A greater emphasis therefore at the sub-disciplinary interface of sports and health geography on hybrid 'fitness geographies' may help researchers towards a more comprehensive understanding, and coverage, of health issues in society.
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