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Fit Nation: The Gains and Pains of America's Exercise Obsession

Thu April 27th 2023, 12:00 - 1:30pm
Lane History Corner, Room 307
Experience Type

How is it that Americans are more obsessed with exercise than ever, and yet also unhealthier? Join historian Natalia Mehlman Petrzela (Stanford PhD '09) to discuss her new book Fit Nation: The Gains and Pains of America's Exercise Obsession, which explains the fascinating story of how we got here and imagines how we might create a more inclusive, stronger future. Spanning more than a century of American history, Fit Nation relies on original interviews, archival research, and scholarship in multiple disciplines to chronicle how working out evolved from being a strange subculture to a social imperative -- even as only about 20 percent of Americans get the recommended amount of daily exercise. Examining venues from the stage of the World’s Fair and Muscle Beach to fat farms, feminist health clinics, radical and evangelical college campuses, yoga retreats, gleaming health clubs, school gymnasiums, and many more, Petrzela reveals how "fitness" has come to be defined as more than a matter of physical activity, but what it means to be an American.

Having completed her M.A. and Ph.D. in Stanford's History Department, Petrzela will also speak about the craft of chronicling the past - from dissertation to book to second book - as well as non-scholarly venues, including podcasting, popular interest periodicals, and other media.