Fitness As Leisure - Exploring Physical Activity through Consumption and Lifestyle

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 4:15 PM
Room: 412
Oral Presentation
Terhi-Anna WILSKA , Dept. of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
Miia GRENMAN , School of Economics, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
Drawing on the discussion on the commercialization of the fitness culture, this study examines fitness as a leisure activity. Fitness is prominent both in media and consumer culture, and it plays an important role in individuals’ everyday life as everyone is surrounded by the social world of the fitness culture, its meanings and signals. Fitness activities are practiced in numerous ways and due to various reasons. Also the fundamental aims of the activities have changed; they have become commodities of the leisure industry.

The core of leisure is in the production of value, and it can thus be associated either with freedom from work and responsibility, or as freedom for self-production. Fitness is understood in relation to both health and appearance, which have become central not only to the social order, but also to individuals’ occupational success and social status. Fitness has both instrumental and non-instrumental value, but the rationale for fitness is still instrumental; fitness is seen as an investment in the body’s physical capital.

This study takes a quantitative approach to examining how consumption and lifestyle are related to the motives for physical activity. The data is derived from The National Student Health Survey (n=4403) conducted in Finland in 2012. The results revealed three consumption styles/lifestyles: hedonistic, healthy and sustainable. Moreover, four main motives for physical activity were found: sociability, health, target-orientation and appearance, which all correlate with the appreciation of well-being emphasizing different aspects. Hedonistic lifestyle correlated with all fitness motives, the strongest relation being with the motive of appearance. Also healthy lifestyle was related to all fitness motives, emphasizing the motives of sociability and health the most. Sustainable lifestyle, on the contrary, had no correlation with any other fitness motive than health, even having a slightly negative correlation with the motive of appearance.