Fit Nation: How Our Obsession with the Gym Reveals the Best – and Worst – About America and Ourselves

In 2017, we can’t open our inboxes or walk a few blocks without experiencing some exhortation to exercise: Walk 5K for breast cancer! Practice yoga to relieve stress! Hit the treadmill to shape up for bikini season! Empower your inner sex kitten at pole-dancing class! Fight diabetes at free outdoor Zumba! Pay up for SoulCycle to sweat like (or perhaps with) a celebrity! Resist all these trends by embracing yet another one: “harden the f*ck up” heaving iron at a stripped-down Crossfit box! Given the United States is hardly a “fit nation” – only 20 percent of Americans work out consistently and over half of gym members don’t use the facilities they pay so handsomely for – the real question is why are we so obsessed?

The answer lies in history. In the past 75 years, “the gym” has evolved from a strange subculture to a $25 billion industry that is laced into our daily rituals or at least thoughts – tomorrow I’ll work out – whether we perceive that active ideal with reverence or resentment. Fit Nation explores how it happened.