A female marathoner run off the road by an irate race organizer. A socialite dancer. A public access television yogi. The history of women’s exercise is filled with colorful characters, and these are just some of the pioneers who helped make the women’s fitness industry what it is today.
In the latest installment of The Well+Good Podcast, you’ll meet Danielle Friedman, author of Let’s Get Physical: How Women Discovered Exercise and Reshaped the World. After taking a barre class and wondering how the unique exercise form got its start, Friedman discovered that no one had yet told the story of how our modern fitness landscape came to be. For example, how did the world go from being afraid that running would cause a woman’s uterus to fall out (yes, really!!), to regularly attending Barry’s classes?
Friedman explains how the exercise boom that started with Bonnie Prudden in the 1950s busted the myth that women are not, or should not, be strong. That continued with Lotte Berk and barre, Katherine Switzer and running, aerobics, Jazzercise, Jane Fonda, and the series of trends that followed. But with the explosion of women’s fitness also came fat-phobic beauty standards and more and more unattainable ideals for our physical appearance. Friedman is hopeful that social media could be helping correct our relationship with exercise by elevating more diverse voices, who the fitness industry have historically kept marginalized, like yogi and author Jessamyn Stanley.
Listen to the full episode here:
It’s time we learn about the people and the movements that have had the biggest impact on how we move our bodies today. Have a listen to the podcast to discover more about the forces—good and bad—that cause us to work out, the effect of the pandemic on exercise, where we are today, and more.
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