University of Nebraska Press



Jonathan Black

Date of this Version

Fall 2013


If you thought the fitness craze was about being healthy, think again. Although Charles Atlas, Jack LaLanne, Jim Fixx, Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons, and Jillian Michaels might well point the way to a better body, they have done so only if their brands brought in profits. In the first book to tell the full story of the American obsession with fitness and how we got to where we are today, Jonathan Black gives us a backstage look at an industry and the people that have left an indelible mark on the American body and the consciousness it houses. Spanning the nation’s fitness obsession from Atlas to Arnold, from Spinning to Zumba, and featuring an outrageous cast of characters bent on whipping us into shape while simultaneously shaping the way we view our bodies, Black tells the story of an outsized but little-examined aspect of our culture. With insights drawn from more than fifty interviews and attention to key developments in bodybuilding, aerobics, equipment, health clubs, running, sports medicine, group exercise, Pilates, and yoga, Making the American Body reveals how a focus on fitness has shaped not only our physiques but also, and more profoundly, American ideas of what “fitness” is.