Chapter 8: Contradictions of Capitalism in Health and Fitness Leisure
Simeon Scott INTRODUCTION This chapter investigates the origin, and subsequent development, of keeping healthy and fit as a leisure activity. Definitions of ‘healthy’ tend to stress freedom from disease, whereas being ‘fit’ is defined as ability to perform tasks. However, there is often considerable overlap in definitions of these terms. During the last three decades, government agencies, such as the Department of Health, have issued increasing amounts of information on public health and fitness issues, with particular reference to a number of leisure-related activities such as eating, exercise, alcohol consumption and smoking. For example, the UK Department of Health-sponsored Foresight Report (2007, 17) stresses problems associated with obesity: In recent years Britain has become a nation where overweight is the norm. The rate of increase in obesity, in children and adults, is striking. By 2050, Foresight modelling indicates that 60% of adult men, 50% of adult women and about 25% of all children under 16 could be obese. Obesity increases the risk of a range of chronic diseases, particularly type-2 diabetes, stroke and coronary heart disease and also cancer and arthritis. The NHS [National Health Service] costs attributable to overweight and obesity are projected to double to £10 billion per year by 2050. Similarly, the marketing literature of health and fitness centres refers to good reasons for exercising during leisure periods and adopting a healthy diet. Trainers in the industry typically list the benefits of regular exercise as increases in life expectancy, greater physical energy and stamina, along with improved...
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