It won’t take long for you to notice America’s obsession with exercise and fitness. The trend over the last several decades in this country has led many to seek out healthier foods, extreme diets, intense workouts and personal trainers. Whether fueled by appearances and vanity, or health and wellness, many Americans prioritize physical fitness. Certainly some of this focus has come as a result of the comparisons to images portrayed in television shows and the movies, as well as idolizing athletes and other celebrities. Probably nearly as influential has been the fight against age, disease and infirmity that many seek to escape.
In the 1970s Americans began learning about the role fitness played in maintaining health, and over the ensuing years many new forms of exercise come onto the scene, including jogging, aerobics, body building, spinning and yoga. As people became more aware of their own responsibility for their health, they also began to idealize a more slender and defined body type. Working out for the sake of accomplishing strength, shape and tone introduced a whole new business opportunity under the “fitness umbrella,” including fitness centers and gyms.
Memberships to these establishments had grown to more than 50 million Americans by 2010 and it continues to rise, indicating the huge contingent who believes maintaining their fitness level warrants the cost of membership and demonstrating their intention to make that a priority. That cost can vary greatly depending on the part of the country as well as the gym’s location, and the luxury, amenities, classes, training and equipment available.
Secondary Fitness Establishments
In addition to paying for places to workout, many Americans also pay premium prices to purchase food at high end grocers offering healthier products, participate in trendy diets and programs promising rapid results, and frequent workshops, seminars and classes about wholesome, organic and nutritious foods and beverages.
Fitness gear has also become an industry unto itself as Americans spend more than $40 billion to purchase gadgets, equipment, outfits and paraphernalia to aid them in their quest for fitness. From shorts and shoes to apps and apparatuses, large stores geared toward sports and fitness do big business in the U.S., whether to outfit children and youth for their sports teams, or to equip adults for their hobbies and ambitions. Some of the national retailers include Sports Authority, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Big 5 Sporting Goods.
In addition to workouts intended solely for the purpose of maintaining fitness, many Americans also participate in sports at one level or another. Leagues form for basketball, volleyball, soccer, tennis and hockey aficionados to name a few. They appeal to athletes wishing to get a good workout while playing a game they enjoy, or relive the glory days of their youth.
Clubs form for bicyclists, hikers, skiers, riders and runners. The accountability provided by joining a group helps participants continue to push themselves. Organizations like the YMCA and many other gyms encourage families to participate in their activities to build and maintain habits that promote a healthy lifestyle.
While staying active, eating smart and participating in interests and hobbies that contribute to a more fit body and mind have positive benefits, unfortunately they can also create an unhealthy obsession to body image, especially for young girls. Anorexia and bulimia are two of the more serious (and sometimes fatal) eating and health disorders that have developed in response to this country’s preoccupation with looking like some idealized version of a woman (or less commonly man). The drive to achieve a specific weight, clothes size or physique has derailed not only the health, but the very life of many who have struggled with body image because of all the attention and success associated with being slender, beautiful, or muscular.