Gym culture likened to McDonalds

April 22, 2014
Gym culture likened to McDonalds
This image relates to the release entitled 'Gym culture likened to McDonalds.' Credit: TheUniversity of Gothenburg

Visit a typical gym and you will encounter a highly standardised notion of what the human body should look like and how much it should weigh. This strictly controlled body ideal is spread across the world by large actors in the fitness industry. A new study explores how the fitness industry in many ways resembles that of fast food. One of the authors is from the University of Gothenburg.

McDonaldisation of the gym culture is the theme of an article published in Sports, Education and Society, where Thomas Johansson, professor at the University of Gothenburg, together with Jesper Andreasson, senior lecturer at the Linnaeus University, have explored the development of the modern fitness concept. The study is partly based on interviews with personal trainers and group fitness instructors.

14 000 gyms across the world

With the example of the company Les Mills, established in New Zealand in the 1960s, the authors describe the emergence of a strictly regulated and globalised culture in the field of group fitness training. Les Mills – a giant in the – operates based on a franchise model where permission to use the company's programmes is sold across the whole world. Today, over 14 000 gym offer a Les Mills programme. The company is represented in over 80 countries, including Sweden, and caters to over four million fitness class participants every week.

Strictly regulated movements

'Les Mills implies a standardised set of techniques that look basically the same in all forms of group fitness training. It's really a business empire built around group fitness,' says Johansson.

The concept consists of the company's head trainer presenting strictly regulated movements, including which music should be played while they are performed. The instructions are updated every three months and then spread throughout the whole chain of certified Les Mills instructors. As a result, local instructors have a very marginal influence over the fitness classes they lead.

Limits utilisation of competence

'This of course limits the individual instructors' chances of tapping into their full competence, as they have no way of changing the movements, music or the way they give instructions. Their abilities are not fully utilised since they have to adhere so strictly to a pre-designed terminology and choreography. At the same time, individual gyms often promote the whole thing as a quality index,' says Jesper Andreasson.

Explore further: Self-rated physical fitness in midlife an indicator of dementia risk

More information: Read the article Doing for Group Exercise What McDonald's Did for Hamburgers: Les Mills and the Fitness Professional as Global Traveler in Sports, Education and Society: www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10 … .885432#.U1ZcChC8ywl

Related Stories

Self-rated physical fitness in midlife an indicator of dementia risk

February 26, 2014
How would you rate your own physical fitness? Is it good, satisfactory or maybe even poor? Surprisingly, your answer may reveal your future risk of getting dementia.

Direct fitness measures better predict cardiometabolic risk

February 21, 2014
(HealthDay)—Directly measured fitness is more strongly associated with cardiovascular risk than self-reported physical activity level, according to research published in the Feb. 15 issue of The American Journal of Cardiology.

Lower IQ in teen years increase risk of early-onset dementia

March 10, 2014
Men who at the age of 18 years have poorer cardiovascular fitness and/or a lower IQ more often suffer from dementia before the age of 60. This is shown in a recent study encompassing more than one million Swedish men.

LG jumps into wearable fitness gadget market

January 6, 2014
Korean electronics maker LG is jumping into the wearable fitness market.

Music through sport – jymmin improves your mood

January 9, 2014
Working out and making music at the same time – scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig retrofitted conventional fitness machines to produce music during a workout. Not only ...

Recommended for you

New insights into controversial diagnosis of adolescent chronic fatigue

October 23, 2017
Crucial new research could provide some clarity around the controversy surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in adolescents. The research by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute published ...

Do boys really have a testosterone spurt at age four?

October 23, 2017
The idea that four-year-old boys have a spurt of testosterone is often used to explain challenging behaviour at this age.

Our laws don't do enough to protect our health data

October 23, 2017
Have you ever wondered why your computer often shows you ads that seem tailor-made for your interests? The answer is big data. By combing through extremely large datasets, analysts can reveal patterns in your behavior.

New prevention exercise programme to reduce rugby injuries

October 23, 2017
A new dynamic 20-minute exercise programme, performed by rugby players before training and pre-match, could dramatically reduce injuries in the sport according to a benchmark study published today (Sunday 22 October).

Expert: Be concerned about how apps collect, share health data

October 20, 2017
As of 2016 there were more than 165,000 health and wellness apps available though the Apple App Store alone. According to Rice University medical media expert Kirsten Ostherr, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates ...

Three million Americans carry loaded handguns daily, study finds

October 19, 2017
An estimated 3 million adult American handgun owners carry a firearm loaded and on their person on a daily basis, and 9 million do so on a monthly basis, new research indicates. The vast majority cited protection as their ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

J P P
not rated yet Apr 22, 2014
I get it, and it's a fine point. However, there is also a "good" side to the standardization of group exercise classes: you know EXACTLY what to expect and what you'll get if you take a Les Mills class. Strangely, I could not access the full text of this article through my university's (R1) library. But it would be interesting to see if the authors mentioned any of the positive effects. E.g., while limiting one instructor's ability to chose exercises, routines, music, it also educates others to provide a decent, challenging, and consistent (standardized!) class. I've been doing BodyPump for a year now, 3x per week. I've never felt stronger and people have noticed. I get the critique of the standardization of things, but standardization is not always bad.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.